Jónsi produces electronically infused music meant for the arthouse. It has been ten years since the Sigur Rós singer’s last solo album, and since then he has won a place of admiration within the hearts of How to Train Your Dragon fans. Throughout the animated franchise, he carefully constructs a soaring sense of wonder that transports the audience into flying right alongside the main characters and their dragons. In his latest album Shiver, Jónsi builds an atmospheric ambiance that weaves the boundaries between experimental and classical melodies.
Jónsi is a one-man orchestra webbing a cohesive concoction together. The methodical pacing of Shiver carries the album at a consistent rhythm, then explodes with passion and beauty at regular intervals. In the song “Salt Licorice,” he delves into electronic pop with the singer Robyn and builds a candy-coated ambiance through artfully distorted vocals. In contrast, his collaboration with Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser in “Cannibal” slows the pacing to shine a spotlight on the heights of an unaltered voice. Jónsi scales up and down the various dials influencing the wide palette of instruments in the background, creating a full-bodied and expertly curated experience.
The consistency of the album blurs together in such a cohesive manner that the transition from English to Icelandic lyrics is seamless. After getting in tune with his aesthetic in the early songs, from “Exhale” to “Wildeye”, the songs “Sumarið sem aldrei kom” and “Kórall” fall right in tune with the awe-inspiring wonder sweeping through the album. Fans of Dan Deacon will likely appreciate the aesthetic Jónsi is building, as the emotion central to each song comes through clear, even when the lyrics are distorted for musical effect.
Each song is its own singular gem, and Shiver flows together cohesively on the fifty-two-minute journey. From the onset, listeners will know whether they’ll love or want to pass on the rest of the album. Either you want an album where background and ambiance are key, or you are looking for something a little less experimental with an artist laying their heart out through a traditional lyric-centric album. Whether he is performing with Sigur Rós or building his own solo career, Jónsi focuses on the musical accompaniment by bringing the subtle touches that tweak the heart to the mainstage.