Sigur Rós is on an indefinite hiatus, but fortunately their lead singer, Jón Þór Birgisson, has released a solo album in the interim. If you are familiar with Sigur Rós, then you are used to not understanding a single word sung. Their songs are either in Icelandic or in the band’s own made-up language Hopelandic. The vocals are just another instrument and you can let your imagine fill in possible lyrics. In fact, on ( ), you are supposed to do this and record what you want to hear in the blank liner notes.
In the first track, “Go Do”, on Jónsi’s solo debut Go, I immediately started imaging English phrases to fit the words he sings: “Go sing. Too loud. Make your voice break. Sing it out.” Wait. It is English. Aw, hell yes! Jónsi’s pronunciation is not always recognisable (and there are some non-English parts to songs), so the album still has the Sigur Rós quality I love: of being able to sink into the music and let it provide the most intense of waking dreams.
This is my favourite album of the year thus far. It’s not long (only nine tracks), but every one of them is solid.
“Go Do”, full of chirping flutes, is the perfect opener, and I defy you not to feel instantly uplifted by “Animal Arithmetic”. You’ll be taken into a world where “everything’s full of life”. “Tornado” slows things down and then begins “to grow from the inside” with beautifully orchestrated strings and drums (Nico Muhly is to thank for this). The beginning of “Boy Lilikoi” sounds like the perfect children’s song, but then it energetically bursts into something beyond prior expectations. The skipping voices on “Sinking Friendships” are a bit irritating, but they are only at the beginning—the woodwinds during the rest of the song, and Jónsi’s stunning vocals, provide quick redemption. Dark and powerful “Kolniður” is badass with its eerie strings, and deeper vocals. I picture a fantasy-world battle raging (at 1:47) with Valkyries (represented by the higher vocals) surveying the carnage. “Around Us” is predictable if you know other Sigur Rós songs, but it’s still just so beautiful! Ah! I can’t rave enough about this album.
The weakest track, “Grow Till Tall”, has the quirkiest title which made me want to like it, but its positioning before the cool-down “Hengilás” just doesn’t work. They don’t flow together like the other seven songs did before them.
I love listening to Sigur Rós when writing, lying in bed, walking through misty woods, looking out over the ocean in Crete or on the Gili Islands or in Vancouver…any place where I am alone. Their music encourages the most intense dreams. I look forward to having Jónsi’s Go with me next month when I am gazing out over the cliffs of Ireland.
Definitely recommended. Don’t waste time with singles, just get the whole thing.
For Sigur Rós: Ágætis byrjun, ( ), Takk…, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust