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Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Every once in a while an album comes along that changes my entire perception of music.
I got Jónsi's first album, "Go," the day it came out a couple of weeks ago. I gave it a quick once through and thought 'heh, this is pretty good.' Unfortunately there were a few things going against that listening. I was playing it through my computer speakers, while doing homework, and I had a bunch of other new albums to wade through (as an asside, Hoagy I finally got a copy of that Big Electric Cat CD, so let me know if you want to "borrow" it). So I was distracted and listening to it through just about the worst possible audio source known to man. Then for whatever reason I remembered today that I liked what I had heard, so I busted it out for a real listen.

I loaded it into the old Blu-ray player and pumped it through my definitive technology speakers via my pioneer elite receiver (yeah I'm an audio snob, so what?). Holy shit was I blown away. I can honestly say that I've never heard anything quite like this before. I've been searching for some reference point and can really only compare it to some of the great composers. I can't think of any real modern analogs. This is some forward thinking stuff, though, make no mistake about that.

For anybody who says that pop music lacks the depth and complexity of classical music, this album should be a big "FUCK YOU" to your viewpoint. Jónsi's stuff has so many intertwined layers that I honestly think I'm hearing something different every time I put it on. Sufficed to say it's every bit as complex as just about anything I've ever heard short of Mozart. Where I think he has the classics beat is the use of technology. Jónsi is able to use a diverse array of digital and analog sounds, some of which are so far out there I don't think they came from this planet. Let's see Bach seamlessly blend a sample of a record skipping into a rythmic element in a composition.

Spring was a great time to release this. In a lot of ways the album works much like Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite," representing a continual rebirth. Rather than bouncing between melancholy and triumph, as with Stravinsky, it continuously shifts between moments of utter bleakness and jubilance. My dog, Loki, is an excellent judge of measuring exactly how happy a song is. He is a big fan of anything with major chords and lots of boops and bings (as a sign of his taste, Kraftwerk appears to be among his favorite groups). From the first note of "Go," Loki was captivated. He sat up, pricked up his ears, and immediately began to smile. I've never seen him react this strongly or quickly to music before. It was as if his entire mood shifted in seconds.

Wow, I seem to have gotten a bit off track here. I'll put up some songs in a minute, I swear, but I'll give you a little background on Jónsi first. As the singer/guitarist for Iceland's acclaimed Sigur Rós, Jónsi has been active on the music scene since the mid 90s delivering some pretty out there stuff. They have been among my favorite bands since I first saw them featured in a PBS documentary about the music scene in Iceland, which seems to spawn nothing but musical idiot savants. It must be all of that darkness. I didn't think that any solo effort from the band would be the equal of the sum of its parts, especially after the dissapointment of Jónsi's other side project with his boyfriend Alex as Jónsi & Alex. It was utter garbage and essentially a throwaway new age album. I think I'd rather listen to a single arpeggio filtered endlessly through Phillip Glass' asshole than listen to their album "Riceboy Sleeps" again. Well maybe not, but the album does suck.

"Go" is a remarkable redemption for the previous effort and truth be told, probably even better than the last SR album, which was absolutely sublime. For the new project Jónsi sings in English for the first time that I can recall. All of the SR albums were recorded in a mixture Icelanding and a gibberish language called hopelandic. Don't expect anything transcendent in the lyrics though. He is still essentially using his voice as another instrument in the musical pallette- albeit a very finely tuned instrument.

But I feel that I'm gushing.... so here are some tracks from Jónsi's "Go." I listened to these through PC speakers again and found that they lack the depth that they have through real audio equipment. I just played them again through my Beats by Dre ear buds and they sound nearly as good as the Cd, though, so go grab your headphones if you're interested in doing this justice.  If you can distinctly hear the samples of bees buzzing at any point during "Animal Arithmetic," you're doing it right.

Here's one of the best songs off of the effort entitled "Boy Lilikoi"

This is Loki's favorite song from the album, "Animal Arithmetic"

Last here is the first single and only video thus far, "Go Do." Which I can't embed, so you'll have to follow the link.

Well I hope you enjoyed this as much as I clearly did.

1 comment:

kennedy said...

Dude, you seriously have good taste in music. Love Sigur Ros. I will have to look this up.