Jonsi – Go
After fifteen years and five albums with Sigur Rós, vocalist slash guitarist Jónsi Birgisson steps out with his first solo work, an expansive Icelandic post-rock-new-age-marching-band of an album. It fully embraces the dualities of thesongbird nature of its vocals and isolation in it’s use of space, spattering kick drums and breakbeats between flutes and dulcimers and butterflies. Andpuppy dogs. And cute little baby kittens.
Collaborating with Nico Muhly, the classical composer (The Reader, Grizzly Bear, Bonny ‘Prince’ Billy, Bjork), and co-producing with Peter Katis(Interpol, Frightened Rabbit, Fanfarlo) and Alex Somers (Jónsi & Alex), the album seems a producer’s dream. Sung in both English and Icelandic, these sweet and gentle melodies could just as easily been set against an acoustic guitar, and I think that’s one of the most impressive aspects to this album. The vocal delivery is slanted from a non-English orientation, emphasizing the melody itself rather than the meter of the words, coming out sounding like pure beauty. It expresses such emotion, has that certain je ne sais quoi that if you let that jaded rock you call a heart to crack a little, like some epiphany-stricken grinch, yourtriple sized heart will break the x-ray machine with a golden twang.
But if this doesn’t happen, if you can’t dream that dream with Jónsi, if you can’t get to that place, then this won’t sound like hope. It’ll sound like the sickeningly sweet optimism of the vocals and lyrics has found a way to make the Polyponic Spree look melancholy. It’ll sound like a falsetto backbeat Jethro Tull, like the Diva Dance from the Fifth Element, like some original Zeusian Olympic soundtrackor hearken a mid-80’s Enyan hit.
The album is immediately intriguing, but not necessarily immediate. It’s accessible in a non-threatening ethereal way, or rather, not accessible in a direct and instantly engaging way. It’s at a disadvantage when perusing the landscape of our current, instant, socially networkable oversharing culture. But some things, most things, that require more from us are ultimately more rewarding if we invest ourselves, if we defy stagnation and set ourselves to stretch and grow. And this is the command of Jónsi, urging us, pleading with us to motion: Go.