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Album Review: Jónsi ‘Go’

I find I’m having less and less time for album reviews lately unfortunately. I’m very busy at the moment and album reviews are definitely the most time consuming posts I write on Pluck– I only feel comfortable writing a review after repeated listens of the album, and even then it can be hard to accurately articulate your thoughts on what is ultimately a subjective piece of art.

However Jónsi’s ‘Go’ is certainly worthy of a writeup.

This is the first solo album from Sigur Ros’ frontman, following from his work with his partner Alex as Riceboy Sleeps. I have loved anything this man has done for a long time, and this album is no exception.

Right from the start, it picks up from where Sigur Ros’ latest album left off. When Sigur Ros began they specialised in atmospheric music that crept under your skin, however by their latest album they had really developed a new style- much more upbeat, euphoric, and even pop-like, which is ironic for a band that sings nearly all of their songs either in Icelandic or a made up language called Hopelandic.

While many people criticised Sigur Ros for selling out, they still made beautiful music, and I actually really liked this new direction. Atmospheric lullabies are great to a point, and don’t get me wrong some of Sigur Ros’ earlier albums are some of my favourites ever, but the new direction really suited the development of their sound.

Anyway, four paragraphs in, I should probably start talking about ‘Go’. It is an album very similar in style to the new sound of Sigur Ros, especially the first song Go Do, which manages to be both absolutely gorgeous and amazingly uplifting at the same time, featuring a resounding percussion beat that is actually a man hitting a suitcase.

This song perfectly exemplifies the contradication and juxtapositions that abound in Jónsi’s music. At the same time as he sings upbeat pop tunes, he uses a suitcase for percussion. He has managed to perfectly balance his uniqueness with a more mainstream sound, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

“We always know that we can do anything.”

It is certainly extremely strange to hear Jónsi singing in English. One previous Sigur Ros song was in english, All Alright, however Jónsi’s english skills have developed considerably since then. Personally, I far prefer when he sings in Icelandic or Hopelandic. I have never even once looked up a translation to a Sigur Ros song, because I know that what Jónsi is actually singing could never be as beautiful as what I imagine he is singing. This is part of the beauty of Sigur Ros: their music can be about whatever you want it to be about.

By contrast, it seems just plain wrong to hear Jónsi sing “Riding bikes, making out” (Animal Arithmetic). It seems like it is somehow beneath him, like he should be singing about grander and more meaningful things. It certainly takes some time to become accustomed to Jónsi singing in english.

Boy Lilikoi, the first song released from the album, loses no beauty in english however- it is a wonderful ballad about yearning for youth, and is probably Jónsi’s clearest ever song linguistically, with every word easily discernible.

Signs of earlier Sigur Ros music and Riceboy Sleeps style instrumentation are in the album (see the sublime start of Sinking Friendships, which sounds like it could be a Sigur Ros b-side, until Jónsi starts singing in english), however ultimately it is always the more upbeat pop sound that abounds.

Around Us is probably my favourite song on the album (even if it confuses me, because it has the lyrics ‘Grow Till Tall’, which is the name of the previous song). It is just purely euphoric, and is a resoundingly wonderful song, especially when that chorus kicks in: “We all want to go with the breeze we will blow”.

Closer Hengilás is the only song on the album sung in Icelandic, and it shares the same beauty with early Sigur Ros, even if it seems oddly out of place on ‘Go’.

‘Go’ may be an album hard to swallow for diehard Sigur Ros fans. However while hearing Jónsi sing in english is certainly strange, the sheer beauty of this man permeates all aspects of ‘Go’. It is a masterful solo debut that perfectly balances all elements of Jónsi’s music writing into an absolute gem of a record.

But then, like I said, I just don’t have it in me not to love anything Jónsi does.

Album Rated: 9/10

Listen To: Around Us, Go Do, Boy Lilikoi, Sinking Friendships, Hengilás, every single song Jónsi has ever written.

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3 Responses to “Album Review: Jónsi ‘Go’”

  1. My mind was blown when I realised “Go Do” was actually in English! I’d been listening to it for quite a while, then read something about the lyrics and they were in English. I’d never realised! I assumed they were in Icelandic or Hopelandic.
    I’ve only really listened to “Takk…”, which is a great album when I’m in the mood for it. It’s got a tonne of good tracks. But “Gobbledigook” from their latest album (I think) really took me with it’s strong percussion. I love it.
    Glad this album is so good, I was thinking of picking it up very recently. Looks like I’ll have to.
    P.S. Glad you liked the mixtape too!

    • Yeah Gobbledigook is a great song- in fact most of the first half of that album (I can’t be bothered writing out the whole name) is in a really similar vein with a strong percussive beat. It definitely sounds a bit similar to a lot of ‘Go’, so I’d really recommend you pick it up!

  2. I love Jonsi’s solo album and am eagerly awaiting tour details to make sure i don’t miss out. I love the use of the sounds of birds wings flapping in ‘Go Do’ – amazing!!!!

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