Friday, December 10, 2010

Jónsi: Go

Jón "Jónsi" Þór Birgisson might be best known as "the Sigur Rós guy that sings words I can't understand and plays his guitar with a bow."  Well, that's not incorrect, but Jónsi has definitely made a name for himself with his solo/debut album, Go.

The first thing I had to do was expunge the notion that Go would be Med Sud II or Takk...IIGo is far less acoustic-guitar driven than Med Sud, and it does not have the sprawling electronic expanse that Takk features.  Go is, in some sense, Sigur Rós lite -- which is what you might expect when a lead singer sets out on his own -- a bit poppier, brighter, shinier (not necessarily "fitter, happier, more productive").  Go also provides the first full-length album on which Jónsi sings in English.  It's almost as if he wants a breakout album!

The album gets off to a great start, with its three best songs arriving in the first four tracks.  "Go do" features a percussion section somewhat reminiscent of Med Sud, but there's enough musical distraction (that flute thing for starters, and the little blips of Jónsi's voice sprinkled at certain spots to add additional beat) to remind you that this is not Sigur Rós.  The lyrical content -- again, in English -- is a striking difference from almost all things Sigur Rós.  "Animal Arithmetic" does have a line in Icelandic, but it's English lines talk about waking up, eating breakast, and making out (among other things)... kinda weird to hear recognizable words in Jónsi's voice, but he does far less of the falsetto lilting on Go, so in that way, Jónsi sets himself apart from, well, his other self.

If there's one song that could fit most undetectedly (is that a word -- no? Too late) in the Sigur Rós discography, it might be "Tornado."  It starts off slow, with a piano and a bass (timpani?) drum, but -- in typical Sigur Rós fasion -- it builds and builds, adding strings, symbols, a rolling snare, and Jónsi performing his own background vocals... just in time for it to all melt away.  Classic:

Grade: B
Blurb: If you ever wanted a happier, shinier Sigur Rós -- and you wanted to sing along to it -- then go pick up Go.

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