To the Sigur Rós fans still weeping over the band’s decision to scrap their latest full-length and take an indefinite paternity leave: turn Ágætis Byrjun off for a minute or two and dry your tears with Jónsi’s uplifting solo debut. Then you can turn it back on and resume weeping.
Drawing from Sigur Rós’s penchant for avian imagery, Jónsi has tried to assign himself the role of a bird (he even sports all kinds of feathers in the video for the single “Go Do”) fleeing its cage — a huge, legendary, post-rock cage. Liberated from the harrowing eight-minute epics and fetus cover art that sheltered him, he delivers tightened symphonic climaxes that arrive quickly and joyfully. The foremost frontman of Iceland has stuck with his trademark falsettos, but he’s abandoned his native tongue, sighing and squealing mostly in Basic English. (“I wonder if I’m allowed/Just ever to be,” he sings on a Philip Glass–flavored “Tornado.”)
The disc is an appropriate soundtrack for springtime and new beginnings, and this Sigur Rós–lite of a solo project does carry Jónsi across the equinox without his bandmates-turned-family-men. But it sounds more like the work of a chick hatching than a free bird.