GO by jónsi

by Gordon

Pitchfork: 8.1          Rolling Stone: 3.5/5          Metacritic: 77          Spin: 4/5


Released: April 2010
  1. Go Do [LISTEN]

  2. Animal Arithmetic
  3. Tornado
  4. Boy Lilikoi
  5. Sinking Friendships
  6. Kolniður
  7. Around Us
  8. Grow Till Tall
  9. Hengilás

   For any fan of Iceland’s Sigur Rós, the arrival of singer Jón Þór Birgisson’s (or more simply, Jónsi’s) solo album came with anxious anticipation. As a leader of a band that’s done a pretty good job at changing up their style over the last decade, almost always reaping good results, one couldn’t help but wonder whether he’d do the same when relying on his own devices. Turns out, as with most Sigur Rós records, it’s a little of both, at once a separation from the familiar and to-be-expected while simultaneously refreshingly recognizable as the sound that Sigur Rós fans have grown to love in the first place.

   “Go Do” is arguably the best offering from Go, and making it the first track may have been a good decision to draw wondering listeners in. It’s both a little more uptempo and happy than most of Birgisson’s previous work, though not too dissimilar from the vibe that was attempted with the band’s most recent, Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, and not without just the right amount of emotion (Jónsi’s lyrics never that straightforward, this comes from the music alone). Opening with fluttery flute and enough Sigur Rós vocal “noises” to seem satirical were they not actually from the singer himself, it becomes a thumping anthem, Jónsi’s vocals soaring to degrees previously shied away from.

   The thumping continues in the following track, “Animal Arithmetic” (and for much of the album). It becomes a bit repetitive and same-old, but still works for most songs. Full of chaotic drumming and whirling instrumentation, the track is a happy burst of energy from Birgisson, who this time steps perhaps out of his own comfort zone, switching to predominantly English lyrics.

   Fortunately the artist reverts to classic Sigur Rós morose and beautiful with “Tornado”. Beginning in sound and style much like Sufjan Stevens’ “Redford” from his “Michigan” album, it transforms from subdued, slow and string-heavy to bold, loud and cymbal-crashing. “Boy Lilikoi” switches back to happy, Jónsi now recalling what seem to be childhood fantasy and wonder. The last minute is particularly good.

   Skipping the less-memorable middle track “Sinking Friendships”, “Kolniður” is particularly dark and “Grow Till Tall” is particularly sentimental. “Around Us” is another gem, with playful piano more at center stage, reminiscent of past greats like “Starálfur” from Ágætis Byrjun. And he closes with “Hengilás”, comfortable and familiar in its throwback to earlier work from the band, like “Untitled 1” for example, from ( ).

   But while no song seems to offend the senses, Jónsi might have made more of an impression had he not relied on nearly all the same tactics and sounds throughout the album. Both he and his fans know what he’s good at, and he’s given it to them with Go, but giving us a surprise once in a while might serve the artist well. That said, this album should float well with both hardcore Sigur Rós fans and noobs who haven’t even heard of the band. While I’m not quite sure why he went off on his own to record what in many ways fits with the rest of the band’s work, there’s apparently not much reason to complain either.

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  1. Pingback: top ten albums of 2010 | the music seen

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