Jonsi - Go

The best record of his career
Jónsi - Go
Wonderful though Sigur Rós are, it’s hard to shake the sense of déjà vu that accompanies every new album. Where contemporaries such as Radiohead continue to reinvent themselves, the Icelandic quartet has been content to simply refine their sound. You know that the songs will ebb and flow for ages, that there will be a really BIG bit and that Jónsi Birgisson will squeal like a cat trapped in a washing machine.

The biggest surprise on ‘Go’, Birgisson’s sort-of-solo debut, is how little of that holds true here. The songs are shorter, poppier. It’s sung almost entirely in English, rather than Hopelandic. And while it doesn’t stint on the epic moments, it feels more intimate than anything his band has recorded. I say sort-of-solo because, while this isn’t a straightforward collaboration like 2009’s Jónsi and Alex record, neither is it purely Birgisson’s.

Composer Nico Muhly is on production duties, crafting a gorgeous, glitchy and complex sonic landscape. Opener ‘Go Do’ is all jittery electronics and fluttering flutes, while ‘Tornado’ revolves around faltering piano and a skittering swell of percussion. Still, it’s Birgisson that you’re here for. Where some Sigur Rós tracks would tease out just a sigh or a howl, here he gives it everything he’s got.

‘Boy Lilikoi’ is lyrically twee, but his enthusiasm and sincerity sells it completely. Accompanied by a surging rush of drums, it’s an absurdly lovely piece of music; energising and euphoric enough to make you want to dash out the door and into the fields. Or onto a glacier, I suppose, if you’re Jónsi. The same could be said for much of this album. As his main band disappears into “indefinite hiatus”, console yourself with the knowledge that Birgisson has just made the best record of his career.

9/10

Words by Will Salmon

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