Album Review: Jónsi – Go

April 20, 2010

Jonsi - Go album artworkTitle: Go
Artist: Jónsi
Label: XL
Released: 6 April 2010
In one word: Jubilant

We’ve all had a day in our life some times that, that were it a fish, we’d throw it back in a heartbeat.  A day so wrapped in regret and loathing that we’d gladly suffer a memory-wipe in the vein of traditional science fiction; all in an effort to shake it off in an effort to return to some semblance of normalcy, and reconnect with that feeling of a forward-moving life.  No one wants to feel stuck at the beginning of a day that continues to move on without them.  What Sigur Rós’ Jónsi appears to have done here with Go is to compose the complete aural opposite of this lamentable style of day.

Where this album’s strength is clearly displayed is in its ability to remain stylistically and qualitatively consistent through-out it’s course.  With a bevy of sonic fuel to propel it skyward to largely optimistic heights, what is amazing about Go is it’s ability to remain up there, and yet maintain a respectable degree of variety, never wavering in style, never unsure of what “kind” of album it wants to be.  However, this is where a line will most likely be drawn between the camps of people that opt to like/not like what Jónsi has done here.  In it’s effort to be enthusiastically unbridled in it’s specific style, this album risks alienating large numbers of potential listeners; especially if they’ve been expecting something akin to Jónsi’s previous work with Sigur Rós.

Go comes out of the gate with a sense of oddness and eccentricity most people generally expect to come out of a place like Iceland, as popularized by everyone’s favourite user of an umlaut, Björk.  While it’s unique quirkiness boldly introduces itself at the start of the album, it stops short of hitting the listener over the head with it.  In fact, inexplicably, the album almost seems to behave in a manner that’s trying to be conscious of not being too intense with it’s delivery. Jónsi’s cheerful and upbeat spirit is not a strange thing to see in this music scene we inhabit and follow.  Artists such as Broken Social Scene or Thom Yorke are often noted for the numerous delicate-sounding arrangements, and have set a precedent for this manner of work.  It’s heartfelt, but not necessarily soulful (if that makes any sense), and it’s most certainly not melancholy.  Things are therefore kept on the surface, and yet contrarily not too superficial.  To put it another way perhaps, it’s the tip of an emotional/experiential iceberg that hints at something greater to be potentially be explored at a later time.  While it might seem unnerving to some to listen to music that appears to be so devoid of cynicism, one most remind themselves that what Go offers is something that is very rich and dense in it’s presentation; contributors Alex Somers, Nico Muhly, and Samuli Kosminen helped see to that.

On the track “Sinking Friendships”, Jónsi howls, “No one knows you ‘til it’s over”, and later “you know no one true ‘til it’s over.”  Arguably, a very understandable way of looking at life, friendship, and one’s self. The sense of celebration this track and others evokes seems indicative of a desire to observe and celebrate the power of social bonds, and life in general, and the overpowering impact these things can have on a person’s life.

What listeners have here with Go is an album that is both bucolic and energetic.  It seems to be a result of a creative process that is all one’s person vision of things both past & future, reflected upon through a singular vision, and not a hodge-podge of ideas brought to the table by a variety of individuals.

© Gabriel Nylund, Music Vice


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