Ten years ago Jónsi, Sigur Rós’ distinctive frontman, released his debut solo album Go. Hotly anticipated at the time, it served to expose the post-rock luminary to a wider audience, and for the most part, was pretty successful. Now, with the help of in-demand producer A.G. Cook, Jónsi is tapping into a very different kind of pop music. Cook is the head of PC Music, the English record label behind some of the weirdest and most inventive music of the last decade. Jónsi’s move is a savvy one, picking the guiding force behind the hyper pop of Charli XCX, Hannah Diamond, and 100 gecs and cementing himself among a growing trend.
Shiver is undeniably a Jónsi album, but Cook looms large over every track. Usually, that’s a good thing, Cook is often able to refine his sound and back up the singer in simple sufficiency. But on “Wildeye” and “Swill” in particular, his production is laid on so heavy, it clashes with Jónsi’s marked emotion.
Besides Cook, Shiver features two other notable collaborators; Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins and the inimitable Robyn. Fraser’s contribution is a match made in heaven, with her ethereal vocals perfectly lightening the moody “Cannibal” and cementing that their relationship lives up to what it looks like on paper. Robyn on the other hand, aside from her nordic roots, seems like an odd choice. “Salt Licorice” ends up sounding like a perfectly fine B-side from The Knife, but with Robyn’s clubby enthusiasm warping the tone enough to seem mismatched among the rest of the tracks.
Jónsi can still be as captivating as he’s always been when on his own though. “Exhale” and “Grenade” the most memorable tracks on the album, help bookend the boisterous and confused sound between them. Their placement helps sell the Shiver to Jónsi’s fans, being the most reminiscent of his prior work, and more importantly the most elegant.
After ten years, Jónsi has shown that he still has an ear for finding melody in the most unlikely places. Where Go stood as a natural outlet for stifled creativity, Shiver extends Jónsi’s prowess even farther. Both may prove to be products of their times, but both serve as deeply singular bodies of work.