PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Jónsi: Go

The Sigur Rós frontman’s first solo foray (featuring explosive arrangements by Nico Muhly) is a triumphant success.



Label: XL
US Release Date: 2010-04-06
UK Release Date: 2010-04-05
Label Website
Artist Website

With their second album, Ágætis byrjun, Sigur Rós crystalized their sound, delivered a masterpiece and effectively usurped Björk's throne as figurehead of the Icelandic music scene. The next two albums, ( ) and Takk..., found the band tweaking and perfecting what they had accomplished on Ágætis byrjun. There weren't any great shifts in tone or style, but they were still delivering knock-out soundscapes that left the rest of world daydreaming of a life in Iceland. On Sigur Rós's last album, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, the band took steps toward expanding their wheelhouse for the first time in their decade-long career. The album was an uneven affair, and its moments of radiant, bombastic pop felt like a transformation in flux.

Go is the album that Með suð was aspiring to be, or, I suppose, I just wish Með suð had been more like Go. I say this because Go commits to its ambitious sound from beginning to end. The first two songs released from the album, “Go Do" and “Boy Lilikoi", build on those bombastic pop moments of með suð and equal them capably. The pounding drums and uplifting orchestral surges of “Boy Lilikoi" serve as a perfect transition from Með suð. “Go Do" repeats the formula to even greater effect with a strong dose of seize-the-day optimism. The song's fanciful video doesn't hurt either.

In the middle of “Go Do", Jónsi urges us to “Go drum, too proud / Make your hands ache, play it out", which could double as a mission statement for Go. The album's beating heart is, well, the beat. To be more precise: the record is dominated by booming, martial percussion. It's hard to believe that Go initially began as a “low-key acoustic record", considering how it turned out. In a press release, Jónsi explained quite simply that “somewhere along the line it just sort of exploded." Credit for the album's artfully executed explosions belongs, in large part, to classical wunderkind Nico Muhly (Antony & The Johnsons, Grizzly Bear, Björk), who is responsible for the album's dramatic string, brass, and woodwind arrangements. One of the pair's most impressive feats, “Animal Arithmetic", is a master study in balancing structure and chaos.

On six of Go's nine tracks, Jónsi sings in English for the first time. Due to a combination of his strong accent and his propensity for singing in a soft purr and elongating his vowels, I barely noticed his English lyrics at first. It seems that regardless of language, his lyrics will always glide by in a gossamer blur. In the context of Go , this might be for the best, since his English lyrics tend to be rather platitudinous (i.e. “Go do, you'll know how to / Just let yourself, fall into landslide"). However, I would chock this up mostly to the fact that he hasn't quite mastered the English language. Thankfully, Jónsi's lapses into the cliche come across more like the words of an overly earnest optimist, less like the cloying poetry it would be in lesser hands.

Although Sigur Rós's music typically evokes the ice fields and mountains of Iceland, Go rarely evokes such rugged terrain. Instead, it goes for a decidedly pastoral vibe with lush and sanguine songs. Coincidentally, the two less-than-stellar moments on Go (“Tornado" and “Hengilás") are the ones that recall Sigur Rós the most, but they are still more than worth your time. I was expecting only good things from Jónsi's solo debut, but he surpassed my expectations by a sizable margin. Go is a joyous and unique work that bristles with the hum of life.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.