Monday, May 17, 2010

Jónsi - Go

What's so fascinating about music, among other things, is the way it affects everyone differently. There is nothing objective about it. As interesting as these presumably subjective implications are, they are also causes of debate. What makes a song "good"? Why is one band "better" than another? On his first solo album, Go, however, Sigur Rós front man Jónsi accomplishes a unique feat: he is perhaps one of those rare artists who can bring objectivity into the discourse among listeners and make what were once arguable topics seem incontrovertible.

In other words, after listening to the album’s nine tracks on repeat, I can’t imagine someone saying this album is anything but beautiful – and I’m not using that term lightly. Sure, that kind of unquestionable beauty subverts music’s inherent subjectivity (arguably its most endearing quality), but more importantly, it highlights how important this album is.

The album echoes many of the lovely and sweeping sounds Sigur Rós fans have come to know and love; songs are layered with epic but fragile arrangements, melodies are executed, gorgeously, with a wide array of both classical and conventional instrumentation, and the tracks collectively reflect the familiar and successful juxtaposition between the somber and the triumphant. And then there’s Jónsi’s voice. Sigur Rós fans will undoubtedly recognize his angelic pipes, but they are also in for a surprise – and I’m not only referring to the use of English. On Go, Jónsi shows off his range more prominently than in any previous Sigur Rós album; through rich harmonies, he communicates his ability to reach impressive and stunning octaves, and he does so consistently. We hear Jónsi throughout, and that is a good thing. Furthermore, Jónsi’s pronounced vocals allow Go to follow a refreshingly straightforward path. It does not, in other words, meander as some Sigur Rós albums do but is instead marked by a stronger sense of melody and noticeable hooks (i.e., Sufjan Stevens or Owen Pallett).

This isn’t a Sigur Rós album. And this isn’t another Jónsi and Alex collaboration. Just as the lyrical theme of growth colors the entire album, one can sense Jónsi’s evolution as a musician, apart from his other projects, as each track beautifully blends into the next; his departure stands alone and is one of the most pleasing records of 2010. I was exaggerating earlier, of course, when I said that Go would be accepted universally as a beautiful album. Still, it does have the potential to resonate as one of those classic records that challenged music’s seemingly subjective nature.

Jónsi - Go Do from Jónsi on Vimeo.


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