Jónsi's first stint apart from Sigur Rós is a bit of a tease. Riceboy Sleeps, produced alongside his boyfriend Alex Somers, is a 68 minute atmospheric opus, strictly instrumental, catering to hardline fans who enjoy ethereal textures as much as Jónsi's falsetto method of singing. But where it is lacking in the latter, Go, his first proper solo debut, makes up for it in spades. It's a known fact that when musicians of Jónsi's stature leave the nest, so to speak, the pressures of achieving singularity can be overwhelming, especially when competing with a catalog as diverse as Sigur Rós. Where it has worked for some diligent artists (Julian Cassablancas, Thom Yorke) it is more common to sound more or less the same (is it too early to say Brandon Flowers?). On Go, Jónsi successfully captures the instrumental grandeur Sigur Rós is notorious for while incorporating stylistic devices he's never previously attempted.
For starters, after fifteen years of singing in Icelandic and the nonsensical Hopelandic, Go is sung primarily in English. It really doesn't matter; what has always stood out about Jónsi's melodramatic vocals was not what he was saying, but how he sounded. Rather than the usual desolate reverberation he's known for, Jónsi engages in colourful, free spirited pop on this record; light hearted and cheerful on “Go Do,” energetic and full of life on the polyphonic “Animal Arithmetic.” Don't fret now, he still displays that warm, climactic embrace found on Sigur Rós favourites“Hoppípolla” and “Ágætis Byrjun.” “Tornado” might be the most epic, extravagant oeuvre he's composed since the aforementioned single; powerful piano chords, dynamic violin strings, and Jónsi's vocals, exquisite, for lack of a better word. Go seems to embrace a delicate symmetry of classical Sigur Rós ambience and the experimental vigour found on 2008's Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. “Boy Lilikoi” tinkers with flutes and wind instruments while progressive and upbeat, suggestive of later works, “Sinking Friendship” fabricates that familiar full, illustrious sound but also mechanical and sample heavy.
Jónsi has always been a connoisseur of the postmodern, creating graceful, enchanting pieces that encompass space and time. He might be appealing to a a vaster demographic on Go, but really, this is a collection aimed towards his loyal fans, excited to hear his falsetto again after the dainty Riceboy Sleeps. It's a record that highlights his strengths, and establishes him as an affluential musician outside of Sigur Rós.
79 — [Rating Scale]