When an artist who fronts a successful band decides to go solo there is always a cause for concern. Many artists who have ventured down this road have either released a completely inane album that is no far stretch from their work with their original band or just completely misses the mark and potentially ruins their entire career (Chris Cornell, I’m looking at you)
The last time Jónsi Þór Birgisson (bit of a tongue twister) was in Vancouver he was playing with his regular band Sigur Ros, who hail from Iceland and expert in epically melodic songs most commonly referred to as “post-modern rock”. For those that remember it was at the Chan Center and tickets sold out quicker than mistresses coming out of the woodworks after a sex scandal in Hollywood. That left most of us hunting through craigslist hoping that some very kind individual would be selling tickets at a reasonable price (didn’t happen) and at the end of the day we missed out on what would’ve been a beyond emotional and moving show. The reason behind the mad rush for tickets and final bidding prices of 300 dollars a seat were because of Jónsi, the lead singer and guitar player whose voice hits pitches un-imaginable and lyrics which we may not understand because he sings in his native tongue Icelandic but we always remain struck in awe of how beautiful it sounds and the emotion it evokes from us as music fans.
Jónsi has since ventured from his day job with Sigur Ros and released a side project with his boyfriend Alex Somers under the moniker “Riceboy Sleeps” an album full of sleepy and dreamy lullaby-ish songs perfect for falling asleep to. Jónsi was not done there though, he has now also recorded his own album “Go” under his own name, simply “Jónsi”. With a new album, a tour usually follows and Vancouver is not only lucky enough to be the first stop, but also the second. Jónsi and his “post-modern-art-rock” show will be stopping at the Vogue April 6th and 7th before he embarks on a world-wide tour including stops at Coachella and all the way out to Japan for the Summer Sonic Festival. Jónsi is not only going to be playing the songs from his new album “Go” on this tour but his entire show is going to be a theatre like performance with every song acting out a story for the audience to follow, any Sigur Ros fan knows that any number of songs by them could easily be the background to an epic motion picture. With the front man turned solo artist Jónsi at the helm and a theatre setting behind him at a venue like the Vogue…well the possibilities are literally endless and before even seeing this show I know that it will be able to be described with only one word…”epic”. Look to the video below as an example as to why I don’t think anyone who experiences this show will leave without shedding at least a tiny tear….
You probably remember these commercials; this one sticks out because it features Sigur Ros’ “Hoppípolla” highlighting the natural beauty of British Columbia, just beautiful…
My last check of Ticketmaster still shows tickets being available for both general admission shows at the Vogue April 6th and 7th. Follow Jónsi on Twitter as well for updates from rehearsals and lots of interesting tidbits regarding the live show @iamjonsi
Speaking of Jónsi’s new album “Go” I thought I would share some of my thoughts and feelings after listening through this record a few times. I was cautiously optimistic about this album going in, as like I said before solo records can sometimes make or break artists and set them apart from being “one of a kind” or “boring, should’ve stuck where the going was good”. Jónsi thankfully falls in to the first category, he abandons the Sigur Ros sound and by that I mean this album isn’t full of 11 minute epic monster songs, instead it’s actually a rather quick album to listen with only 9 songs. You will never lose the comparison to Sigur Ros with Jónsi’s angel like vocals but this album stands out on it’s own with a very original sound with all the bells and whistles of a Sigur Ros album but more “fluffy” sounding. “Go” features more user-friendly fun songs that anyone could get in to, from cute songs like “Boy Lilikoi” or emotionally driven songs like “Around Us” (my prediction for show closer) this album will not have a typical fan and will break Jónsi out from under the Sigur Ros shadow and catapult him on to a whole new level of musical genius. Along with the catchy pop tunes featured on “Go” Jónsi also delves a bit into the electronica side with the song “Animal Arithmetic” with such a good beat and feels so danceable I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this song in a club (sounds like he learned a thing or two from Tiesto when Jónsi leant his vocals to the title track from “Kaleidoscope”). Of course there are a few minor similarities to Sigur Ros on this album mostly heard on the song “Tornado” which is a wonderfully put together piece starting with piano and building up to an epic burst of energy and beauty. It’s almost impossible not to think of Sigur Ros when Jónsi slips back to singing in Icelandic on a couple songs but in the end what you have here is a work of art and hopefully not the last album from just Jónsi.
The weird and most odd part of this album is that Jónsi sings in English for the most part rather than the usual Icelandic or his own made up “Hopelandic” but because of this you get more of a feeling where the songs come from, and based on most songs coming back to the main concept of growing, it seems Jónsi himself has grown and created a beautiful record which will hold it’s own even when put up against the best Sigur Ros album.
Jónsi – Go Do
Jónsi – Boy Lilikoi (Official Video)
The following was written for VcB by our musical correspondent Mpah