As a solo artist, Jónsi expands on the emotional intensity and sense of wonder he pioneered with Icelandic post-rock luminaries Sigur Rós. On his 2010 debut Go, he introduced his adventurous perspective on pop, while his music for films ranging from 2010's How to Train Your Dragon to 2018's Boy Erased built on his well-established flair for atmosphere. Comfortable collaborating with artists as diverse as Troye Sivan and Swedish composer Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Jónsi cleverly juxtaposed these artistic extremes on 2020's Shiver. After spending 16 years as Sigur Rós' singer/guitarist, Jon Thor Birgisson first ventured away from his band to make music with his partner and frequent collaborator Alex Somers as Jónsi & Alex, whose July 2009 album Riceboy Sleeps featured the Icelandic string quartet Amiina and the Kópavogsdætur choir. Using his nickname as his solo moniker, he released his debut album Go on his longtime label XL the following April. Produced by Peter Katis and including contributions from Nico Muhly, Samuli Kosminen, and Somers, the album's largely acoustic sound, poppier songwriting, and predominantly English-language vocals set it apart from his work with Sigur Rós. Reaching number 20 on the U.K. Album Charts and number 23 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, Go was also issued in a limited-edition box set that contained the concert film Go Quiet. In November of 2010, Jónsi released Go Live, a CD/DVD set that included live recordings taken during the European leg of the tour on the CD and live footage of dress rehearsals shot before the tour kicked off. That December, Jónsi contributed the track "Sticks and Stones" to the soundtrack of the hit children's movie How to Train Your Dragon (he also wrote songs and music for the film's sequels How to Train Your Dragon 2 and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World). "Sticks and Stones" led Jónsi to work with Cameron Crowe on the soundtrack to the director's 2011 film We Bought a Zoo. With the 2011 release of Sigur Rós' live audio/video project Inní, Jónsi's focus returned to his band for the next few years. Sigur Rós issued 2012's Valtari and 2013's Kveikur, and toured extensively in 2017. The band debuted the ambient multimedia project Liminal in 2018, while Jónsi restarted his solo career. Along with contributing the song "Who Are You Thinking Of?" and the Troye Sivan collaboration "Revelation" to the film Boy Erased, he also issued the demos and rarities collection Frakkur. In 2019, Jónsi debuted Dark Morph, his environmentally minded project with Swedish composer Carl Michael von Hausswolff; their self-titled debut album arrived that May. That year also marked the tenth anniversary of Riceboy Sleeps, which he and Somers commemorated with a tour and the October release of their album Lost & Found. In addition, he exhibited his visual artwork at a Los Angeles gallery late that year. After appearing on Juliana Barwick's album Healing Is a Miracle, Jónsi returned with his second solo album Shiver in October 2020. Featuring appearances by Elizabeth Fraser and Robyn as well as executive production by PC Music's A.G. Cook, the album juxtaposed bright electronic pop with somber passages and textures.
© Heather Phares & Tim Sendra /TiVo
© Heather Phares & Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 5, 2010 | Parlophone UK
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Anyone expecting Jónsi's solo debut to sound anything much like his work as vocalist with Sigur Rós might be a little shocked. (Only a little, though.) Unlike the sound of the band, which is akin to being enveloped in a great misty cloud of shifting tones and textures, listening to Go is, for the most part, like being caught in a storm of color saturated hailstones. From the very beginning, Jónsi and his collaborators, composer Nico Muhly, Alex Somers (who was half of the Jónsi & Alex project), and Samuli Kosminen pepper the listener with shards of sunny strings and woodwinds, spools of chopped-up guitars and keyboards, all sorts of digital manipulations, and above it all, layers of Jónsi's reliably enthralling voice. The songs alternate between tracks like "Animal Arithmetic" and "Go Do," which sound like the bubbling soundtrack to an awesome training montage in a film where pixies are training to battle fairies; atmospheric tunes like "Sinking Friendships" and "Grow Till Tall" that drift by like puffy clouds; and string-heavy ballads like "Kolniður" and "Hengilás." These ballads anchor the record just enough to keep it from blowing away in the slightest wind and give it some emotional heft. One could argue that not every record necessarily needs this kind of weight, and that it would have been more fun to add two more songs that spun like out-of-balance tops, but since Jónsi does ballads really well, it’s hard to complain too much. It’s also hard to imagine a giddier song than "Boy Lilikoi," which swells and shimmers in a shower of flutes, bells, strings, and almost unbearably sugary vocals. Listening to it is like biting into a jelly-filled donut; only the jelly turns out to be a rainbow. While the whole album doesn’t quite deliver this kind of intense listening experience, enough of it does to make Go an essential addition to the collection of anyone who likes their music to come in colors. If Sigur Rós never releases another album, as long as Jónsi makes records this thrilling, it’ll be OK. © Tim Sendra /TiVo