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If Jonsi’s name doesn’t ring a bell, his Iceland-based band just may. Whether you knew who you were listening to or not, Sigur Ros’ tracks have appeared in numerous television shows, movies, and commercials ranging from CSI: Miami to Vanilla Sky and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Attempting to describe Sigur Ros’ sound as magical is like telling your children that the 1960s were cool; it’s just not enough. From the band’s use of a constructed language throughout their lyrics, expanding the listener’s creativity, to their minimalist yet fully melodic approach; the absolute beauty that their music brings forth cannot be missed.
Sigur Ros is currently on hiatus and won’t be releasing a new album anytime soon. However, leading front man and guitarist Jonsi Birgisson has surprised the band’s followers with not only one but two solo albums released in the past year and a half. The first, titled Riceboy Sleeps, was released last year, using only acoustic instruments. With Go, released this April, Jonsi takes it up a notch; tying in bits and pieces of that gorgeous Sigur Ros sound into his latest solo endeavour.
Go incorporates some changes including the use of English as the main language, as well as Jonsi’s collaboration with composer Nico Muhly (who worked with Björk and Grizzly Bear); laying down amazing string arrangements that are intrinsically woven with emotion and surrealism. While Jonsi is mainly known for playing his guitar with a cello bow and that high-pitched voice, the album offers much more.
In the opening
track 'Go Do', Jonsi sincerely pushes for us to be conscious of growth and change. The song’s positively moving tempo
screams for true happiness and peace. The lyrics 'Tie strings to clouds/ Make
your own lake – let it flow/ Throw seeds to sprout/ Make your own break– let
them grow,' urge you to be aware of life’s possibilities and interact with the planet
earth as it is; a living organism. Between the blissful falsetto tone of Jonsi’s
voice and the flickering woodwinds, the dreamy nature of this song allows you
to embrace your imagination.
'Kolnidur' brings back a little of the Sigur Ros goodness, sweeping you up with some nostalgia on the side. Paired with Nico Muhly’s string-filled wonderment and Jonsi’s heavenly pensive sound (and use of that Sigur Ros language), the piano’s steady beat gives the listener a chance to completely dive into the music.
While 'Hengilas' follows the same path by adding heavier, daunting vocals, 'Sparkling Friendships' is sparkling with upbeat strings and rolling drumbeats. The song is thought provoking with its seemingly figurative take on loss and relationships.
While the majority of Jonsi’s lyrics on the album carry a similar abstract form, his message is quite clear. He doesn’t compromise and his music isn’t lacking. Setting a few tracks aside, the album is layered with enchanting sounds, life truths, and deep spiritual insight; all shedding light onto the magnificence of life’s journey.
One of the shortest tracks on the album is ‘DMT Song’. Created with the help of bassist/vocalist, Thundercat, it is the most vocally dense song on the record. Slow and dreamy, with high-pitched, slightly dissonant, vocals, it's a good intro to the next track, ‘The Nightcaller’. Aptly titled, this song features a groovy dance bass underneath a synthesizer melody that sounds ideal for waving your arms around on the dance floor.
‘Getting There’, with vocals by Niki Randa, is reminiscent of Massive Attack. Not only because of the elongated vocals, but the muffled bass beat and dreamy bell sounds could certainly also have spawned from the brains of 3D and Daddy G. The same goes for ‘Hunger’; a song that sounds like it was recorded underwater and also features Randa. Its spacious melody is broken up by a bridge with echoing vocals and harpsichord-like keyboards.
Erykah Badu is the only vocalist to appear on the album that Flying Lotus hasn’t worked with previously. Her vocals work really well on the African sounding track ‘See Thru To U’ - hopefully, Badu will become incorporated into Ellison’s fixed team of vocalists.
‘Putty Boy Strut’ sounds like a broken toy gone mental, with a catchy musical theme that returns in the deeper layers of ‘Me Yesterday/Corded’.
‘Electric Candyman’ features vocals by Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke, and is a slow track with male and female vocal melodies mixed together in a way that almost sounds disorienting. Yorke’s voice is hardly recognisable, which seems like a waste considering his great, and highly distinguishable, vocal abilities.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.