by / April 9th, 2010 /

Jónsi – Go

 3/5 Rating

(Parlophone Records)

While the rest of the members of Sigur Ros are off having babies and doing whatever settled 30-somethings do, lead singer and guitarist Jonsi Birgisson has been left the keys of the studio. Without the guidance of his band mates Jonsi indulged himself in a fanciful world of his own and he seems to be perfectly happy there.

On Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Sigur Ros moved away from their expansive glacial sound towards something more upbeat and jubilant. It’s certainly the closest they’ve come to creating anything resembling pop. Following this release the band went into a hiatus of sorts. Jonsi ventured on with Riceboy Sleeps, an audio-visual project with his artist boyfriend Alex Somers. The resulting record is a thing of real beauty, with tension-building sonic soundscapes and fragile ambience.

Go has elements of both these albums, and more, but none of the grandeur. Opening track -Go Do’ flurries with falsettos and brass, -Boy Lilikoi’ is blissful pop with tinkering flecks of flute and strings; both of these are stand-out and life-affirming tracks. On the other hand -Animal Arithmetic’ and -Around Us’ are chiming and illuminating ambient pieces.

-Kolnidur’ is centred around a sampled vocal motif with added ghostly noises and finds Jonsi at his most self-indulgent. While other experiments with samples, -Sinking Friendships’ for one, are interesting without being all that memorable. Incidentally all the vocals on this album are in English but that doesn’t mean you’ll understand what’s being sung. Nico Muhly, honorary Icelandic and busiest orchestral arranger in the world (ever), collaborated on a number of tracks but his usual magic is not evident. Perhaps he is responsible for the heavily effected/synthesised horns on the loungey -Grow Til Tall’ but little else makes an impression.

Maybe having the studio to himself afforded Jonsi with too much indulgence. Indulgence is fine as long as there’s an emotional connection or if it results in something extraordinary. Go is not a bad record, it is somewhat exciting, highly listenable and enjoyable for the most part, but it is a long way off being a great record. Perhaps Jonsi needs the guidance of band mates or his partner to avoid making a record that is overly personal to him and therefore impersonal to everyone else.

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