posted on April 14, 2010 19:00
A review of the album 'Go' by Jonsi
Review Snapshot: The falsetto flaunting front man of Sigur Rós embarks on a solo career with ‘Go’, an inspired nine track record swelling with more enthusiasm and optimistic sentiment than a Christian choir on Prozac.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
Full Review: It is hard to believe, but it will be thirteen years this August since Sigur Rós released their debut album Von. And it is even harder to believe just how successful the Icelandic group have become over that time, given their tendencies towards long, drawn out musical progressions and vocals sung either in Icelandic or, more commonly, a made up jargon. And yet there was something in Agaetis Byrjun (1999) and in particular Takk (2005) that seemed to strike a chord with music followers of various tastes, leading to impressive album sales and well attended tours. But with the news earlier this year that the band were on hiatus, it seemed that such patrons would have to look elsewhere for their belly warming melodies (and that RTÉ would have to seek out a new source of dramatic musical accompaniment to their sports advertisements).
Enter Jonsi Birgisson.
Even without his band behind him, Jonsi creates quite a large sound. This is due largely to the involvement of composer Nico Muhly, who brings a stirring orchestral energy to the process. Last year Jonsi released an album with partner Alex as ‘Riceboy Sleeps’. Although it was a moving experience, the album was notable for its lack of vocals, which was unusual, given that Jonsi’s voice is arguably the most potent ingredient in the entire Sigur Rós mixing pot. Fortunately, order is restored with ‘Go’ and we can once more marvel at one of the finest, gender deceiving voices in popular music.
Album openers ‘Go Do’ and ‘Animal Arithemtic’ are so lively and genuinely heartfelt that you cannot help but be drawn into the singer’s utopian convictions. And for once we can understand what he is singing about as most of the album was written in English. It is difficult to know whether this is such a good thing. Perhaps the predominant allure of Sigur Rós – and maybe all wordless ambient music - is the blank canvas that such ambiguity affords us, leaving us free to make of it what we will. It doesn’t help either that in the very first song the lyrics include “Tie Strings to Clouds” and “Make your own lake - let it flow”. Followed in the next song by a chorus of “We should all be oh alive”, which makes Jonsi Birgisson sound like a six year old, so unnaturally good natured that he could only exist in Bala-f**king-mory.
And yet that is exactly what makes the album great. The gloriously innocent lyrics and rousing musical pieces are enough to win over even the most cynical of listeners. ‘Tornado’ is one of the albums more subdued and somber numbers and seems to bring the singer down a bit, so he launches into “Boy Lilikoi” and we are returned to a state of inspirational frenzy.