Monday, May 03, 2010

I see you in the trees. I see you're colorful.

Jónsi - Go

Jónsi Birgisson, the lead singer of Sigur Rós, has released his first solo album. Go came out last month, and it has been a pretty constant presence on my iPod ever since. Go is quite simply a stunning volcano of joy.

Jónsi is known best for his voice, and since most of his previous music is sung in either Icelandic or the made-up Hopelandic, we have counted on his voice (and the beautiful compositions under his voice) to make us soar. But on Go, most of the songs are sung in English, and the result is a lot of inspirational imagery -- once again on top of beautiful compositions.

A few of the songs are slow, and some grow in uplifting crescendo. In other words, they sound like some classic Sigur Rós songs. One of the two songs in Icelandic, the album closer "Hengilas" is a downbeat, atmospheric showcase for Jónsi's voice. Another slower song, the earnest and oddly layered "Grow Till Tall" does the buildup thing, and would have fit well on Sigur Rós's last album.

But most of the rest of Go find Jónsi exploring more upbeat, percussive territory, to soul-stirring effect. Sigur Rós's "pop" song "Gobbledigook" was sort of a precursor for some of the pounding melodies on Go. For example, the album's first song, "Go Do," (with it's awesome video) simply fills my heart and makes me smile. The drums, the flute, the lyrics, the strange electronic tweaks--this song is an aural celebration.

And that celebration continues on the insanely uplifting "Animal Arithmetic," on which Jónsi rattles off carpe diem imagery over a strangely springlike industrial cacophony of rhythm. I am a bit addicted to this song.

The mood changes with "Tornado," which consists mainly of piano and a slow bass drum, and Jónsi has darkened here a bit: "You grow like a tornado. You grow from the inside, destroy everything, destroy from the inside." All the while, he hits his signature high falsetto notes. Lovely.

"Boy Lilikoi," which has actually gotten some radio play, is just a perfect combination of slow and fast, of earthly images and heavenly melodies, of complex layers of sound and simply textures. "Boy Lilikoi" overwhelms the senses.

I love the way "Sinking Friendships" begins, with samples and snippets and digital tics, but then comes the familiar piano, followed by harmonies for the ages. Then about halfway through, the song strips down to some electronic squirks (yes, squirks) and drums for a brief moment, and the spirit of the song shines through.

A final highlight is "Around Us," which borrows some lyrics from the previously mentioned "Grow Till Tall," but in a percussion-filled echo chamber of upliftiness.

Go showcases Jónsi's brilliance as a singer and as a composer, and reveals a side of him that he has only hinted at before. This album is good for my soul, and when I listen to it, I feel like life gets a little sunnier.


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