Monday, July 12, 2010

Go by Jónsi

When I heard the news that Sigur Rós -- one of my four favourite bands -- was going on a hiatus, I was crestfallen. But then later that same day (perhaps it was even the same article) I heard that lead singer Jón Þór Birgisson, aka Jónsi, was going to be doing a solo album I perked up a little. Even though I was mildly disappointed by the Riceboy Sleeps album by Jónsi & Alex (Alex being Alex Somers, Jónsi's partner and founding member of the band Parachutes), I was still excited by this prospect. Surrounding himself with some excellent musicians, including the aforementioned Somers, Jónsi does something quite unique: while the vast majority of Sigur Rós songs are in either Icelandic or Hopelandic (save one song on their last album), all but two (and a half) on this album are sung in English.

"Go Do" starts out a little twitchy and a little low key, but then slowly builds up to a grand start for the album, before "Animal Arithmetic" absolutely explodes with unbridled joy; it is impossible to hear this song and not have a huge grin on your face. "Tornado" very much lives up to its name, as it starts very soft and gradually builds into a swirling cacophony of sound and noise, with the chaos actually evoking the feeling of a storm. "Boy Lilikoi" picks up the energy again, and is fantastic example of Nico Muhly's absolutely beautiful string, brass, and woodwind arrangements, which grace the whole album. The piano-heavy and atmospheric "Sinking Friendships" is heartbreakingly gorgeous and leads perfectly into the string heavy and soaring "Kolniður", which is one songs sung in his native Icelandic.
"Around Us" is another undeniably optimistic song which, both musically and lyrically, is the opposite side of the coin as "Grow till Tall", the climax of the album. While the former proclaims "We all want to grow with the seeds we will sow / We all want to go with the breeze we will blow / We all want to know when we're all meant to go / To a place you and I..." the latter counters with "You'll know, when's time to go on / You'll really want to grow and grow till tall / They all, in the end, will fall"
Starting off very calm, "Grow Till Tall" builds in intensity and gradually adds instruments until the whole things washes over you, before abruptly ending in a fuzz. Finally, the album is brought to a close with the tender "Hengilás", a perfect denouement to end the album.

The album, on the whole, seems to be much more upbeat than the average Sigur Rós album, and even the slower songs seem to still be bursting with beauty. It is a phenomenal album that is as joyous as it is unique, and I have a hard time imagining another album will come along and surpass it as my favourite of the year.

Download Animal Arithmetic

Download Tornado

Download Grow Till Tall

Clicky to exchange monies for music

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