Album review: Jónsi - Shiver

Jonsi album cover Shiver

Jonsi album cover Shiver - Credit: Archant

First solo album in a decade from Sigur Rós frontman takes a rugged ride through off-road electro.


Jonsi - Credit: Archant

Clearly for a creative mind like Jónsi Birgisson, it isn’t enough just to be frontman of the 21st Century’s most successful post-rock band, and a visual-audio artist who creates matching scents for each work while exhibiting in his adoptive home of Los Angeles.

His latest creative outlet comes a decade after his first solo LP. And Shiver, much like the name suggests, sure does ring in the changes.

While the bones of these songs date back seven or eight years, Jónsi’s original intent to write, perform, record and mix the lot took a dramatic turn after meeting London-based producer A G Cook – Charli XCX’s creative director known for his dense, abrasive and distorted takes on modern pop.

Cook deconstructed Jónsi’s songs and rebuilt them from the ground up, placing that now wonderfully familiar falsetto into decidedly harsher arrangements. Album preview Swill gave a pointer – its scything electronics one of many iterations of the bold, twisted-pop sensibility this collaboration has produced.

Swedish pop icon Robyn crops up to add some louche vocals to Salt Licorice. An ode to “Scandinavian pain”, it bumps along on punchy syncopated beats, swooshing synths and metallic, crunchy effects.

Sumarið Sem Aldrei Kom is an odd cut’n’shut, starting with a spiritual acapella and church organ, adding white-noise, glitchy electro and ominous drums, then melting into a calming lullaby of Jónsi’s dawn mist vocal and soft piano keys.

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The jittery, glitchy Kórall twinkles with myriad instruments, bookended with an abrasive, brittle kick, and Wildeye explores the contrast between excoriating industrial synth and razor-sharp drum snaps on the one hand, and 4am comedown vibes of muffled bass drum, sprinkled harp plucks and insectoid hums on the other.

If anything comes close to the output of Jónsi’s juggernaut band Sigur Rós it’s the somnambulant Beautiful Boy, gliding in and out of focus on a gentle bed of white noise and slo-mo, filtered vocals. And those pining for something less prickly will rejoice in Cannibal, a gently swirling, soaring ballad featuring Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser, who lends some Kate Bush-like vocals.

Together, the arresting, knife-sharp electro and Jónsi’s Savlon-cool vocals sure make you feel alive.

3/5 stars