#7. JÃ³nsi – Go
JÃ³nsi, of course, is the lead singer of Sigur RÃ³s, and the mix of natural instruments with his other-worldly voice remains the key for the music on his new album, Go. JÃ³nsi’s other side project, Riceboy Sleeps, basically makes ambient music. Go, however, is the polar opposite of ambient, where everything just sparkles and breathes. (Sigur RÃ³s, I guess, mixes both aspects.)
Go begins with the glorious and triumphant “Go Do,” though it sometimes recalls a Nike commercial (could just be the title). “Animal Arithmetic” has a relentless pulse, from the opening junkyard percussion, to the upbeat vocals, to the swirling keyboards. Not a moment is wasted, not a moment drags. Glacial Sigur RÃ³s movements are nowhere to be found here (well, maybe a tiny bit, the final track “HengilÃ¡s” is familiar). Despite the parts being the same (strings, Iceland, drama, that voice), and being just as uplifting, JÃ³nsi is taking a different path from Sigur RÃ³s. It remains stunning. Nobody makes music like this.
One difference is that, instead of Icelandic (or Hopelandic), JÃ³nsi actually sings (most of) the lyrics in English. I was stunned to discover this. I didn’t realize it until months after I started listening to it! His voice does that to you, his unique phrasing and sound. And the lyrics are fascinating too. From the gorgeous “Sinking Friendships,” he writes “we’re swimming in the blue / nigh misfortune / unlively like glue / my eyes are soaked the way through / our sinking friendships / we drown them all.”
There is a lot of lines about growth and movement, which matches the music, and seems to be JÃ³nsi’s theme (hence the album title). For instance, on “Around Us,” “I see a forest / a treasure chest full of labyrinth / I see a door, holes in the floor / We’ll break seeds, we’ll grow!” “Boy Lillikoi” seems to be about a boy, courageous and adventurous: “I want to be a lilikoi / Boy lillikoi / you grind your claws / you howl, you growl unafraid / you run, you’re free / you climb endless trees.” JÃ³nsi’s song could not be more life-affirming, but never in a new agey sort of way.
JÃ³nsi sings on “Animal Arithmetic,” “every time, everyone, everything’s full of life / every day, everywhere, people are so alive” and that’s a perfect description. Every moment of Go is full of life, no album from 2010 is more alive.