Written by: DR on 21/11/2010 18:35:40

Jón Þór Birgisson, or "Jónsi", co-founded and fronted Sigur Rós for almost fourteen years. During that time they brought us some of the most glorious, cinematic post-rock ever which at the time of hiatus secured them as one of the most important, influential and seminal acts not only in the genre, but in music of the past twenty years. Because of this, when "Go" was released back in April it wasn't just any frontman's debut, it was Jónsi's. That voice, that mind, that talent. How would it work outside of the Sigur Rós context?

"Go" is Jónsi expressing a side of himself that he was unable to previously. It's more a collaboration than a solo album: along with Alex Somers and Samuli Kosminen, he's recruited Nico Mulhy, who has worked with Grizzly Bear and Mew, for string arrangements and production. Although I hesitate to use a word that has come to represent everything unoriginal and uninspiring with music today, it is pop music - don't be off-put by that, because it's not like the man behind it could ever do anything unoriginal or uninspiring.

His love for classical-influenced post-rock build ups are condensed from ten minutes long into four or five minutes, and with the gorgeous string arrangements complimenting his vocals - now mostly in English and not Hopelandic or Iceland - which are so lovely, that when he sings lyrics like "You wish fire would die and turn colder / You wish young eyes could see you grow older / We should always know that we can do anything" he sells it with his child-like sincerity permeating in every word of his (broken) English. Oh, and that voice! So ethereal - it doesn't even sound like a real person; Is there a finer falsetto, or voice for that matter, around right now?

He's deliberately intent on inspiring positivity. "Go Do", as those lyrics aforementioned touch upon, carries a positive message, but when Jónsi releases his vocal chords to far heights of his falsetto, it stops being merely positive and becomes completing elating. It continues with a song about finding joy and being free in "Animal Arithmetic", featuring rare-moments of Icelandic, held together, unusually, by off-kilter percussive crashing. "Boy Lilikoi" is a song deserving of my "oddest imagery of any song I've heard all year" award; he sings metaphorically about a boy lilikoi - which is a fruit - living life free of worry and full of adventure and imploring all those around him to do the same.

There are more atmospheric offerings which give Jónsi a chance to flaunt his understanding of gradual build ups and also his gossamer vocals that SR pivoted on, such as "Tornado". Centred around the use of a piano, it's closest he approaches to anything "dark"; it eventually swells and the piano gives way to strings and percussion, before finishing on Jónsi relecting "I wonder if I'm allowed to ever be free". "Sinking Friendships", "Grow Till Tall" and "Kolnidur" also feel post-rock influenced in their build up and in the way the crescendo seems to crash after being thrust forward by Mulhy's arrangements.

It should be no surprise that "Go" is as charming and exhilerating as it is, after all, the brains behind it were part of what brought us "Ágætis byrjun" and "Takk...". It's not quite as ground-breaking as those albums, however, and I'm shooting myself in the foot here, it firmly cements Jónsi as more than the frontman of Sigur Rós, as a seperate artist and entity and this release will deservedly be acknowledged as so. Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson: the most unqiuely-minded, original and talented frontman around?

Download: Go Do, Around Us, Boy Lilikoi
For The Fans of: Fang Island, Sigur Rós, Efterklang
Listen: Myspace

Release Date 05.04.2010
XL Recordings, Parlophone

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