Jónsi Go

Most of the reviews of Go that I’ve seen in passing mention how different it is from Jónsi’s work with Sigur Ros. I thought that I would have fresh ears because I’ve only heard like one of their albums (()? Vekatimest?). Still, this album is a big contrast from the music journalist shorthand for Sigur Ros’ sound; atmospheric, etheral, post-rock.
I’ve always gotten an art rock vibe from Sigur Rós, in terms of marketing and their place in the indie rock pantheon. Go is much more upfront about being conventional pop, in terms of songwriting. One thing that is retained from SR is the epic ambition of the songs. There’s a tasteful amount of glitchy production that, coupled with Arcade Fire-esque tom-heavy propulsive drums, give the upbeat numbers a kind of apocalyptic, end-of-the-world-party energy.
Go is a fun album. It’s impossible to listen to it without getting caught up in its ambition and energy.
But. [Read more for the old sad bastard view on this album.]
I was also struggling to hear anything new in this album. “Go Do” is a great upbeat, fast tempo opener that, with its interesting production and layering, promises more than the album delivers. One problem is that almost half the album is dead weight. “Tornado” “Kolnidur” and  “Grow Till Tall” are all big ballads that are largely interchangeable. “Tornado” was great, but through the other tracks I learned to anticipate the arc of his downtempo songs: slow, instrumental-heavy verse, then the drums come in about a third of the way in, then everything goes up in volume as the chord progression is brought to the forefront. It became predictable, then dull. “Grow Till Tall” in particular is a formless piece of shit.
And the chord progressions! It’s not always important to have innovative or off kilter harmony in the music I listen to, but it seems like Jónsi went out of his way to pick the dullest chord progressions possible. I feel like this album could be mashed up with anything, the music is so generic. I understand the counterargument that the distinctive feature of this album is its production, but I don’t think that’s enough. I think we’ve seen more done with both electronic layering and manipulation, and incorporation of acoustic instruments. I think the only reason that this album sounds different is that it has an extraordinary energy, and it’s extremely polished.
Just because an album is catchy doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have artistic merit, but Go is so superficially appealing that there was literally nothing challenging at any point in any song, nothing to puzzle over, nothing that inspired curiosity. The final track, “Hengilas” reminded me a lot of a song by another Icelandic singer, Björk’s “The Dull Flame of Desire.” Any solo album by Björk has more to discover than Go.
At the end of the album, the only track that I wanted to revisit was “Boy Lilikoi.” It’s a midtempo song, and I like that it has a groove right from the beginning that is independent of the drums. The production is a little more transparent, and Jónsi sings in a lower range (I find his falsetto vocalizing super fucking annoying). Go is an album that I might put on while friends are over and I feel like I need bland, inoffensive music to cover the silence.

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