top of page

Jonsi - Shiver

This, Jonsi’s second solo album outside of Sigur Ros and his collaborative projects, is easily his strongest work to date. While Sigur Ros as a band seem to have lost their way of late, creating more electronic soundtracks/noise tracks than actual structured songs or accessible instrumentals which are more like music as an art form (the 24 hour Road Trip of Iceland Route 1, for example), Jonsi seems to have taken those elements and made practical useable songs. I’m not saying this album is always an easy listen, because it’s not. But it’s like he has discovered a new machine full of electronic noises, voice effects and editing abilities and turned them into usable elements of his music. That’s because I think he’s not scared to play, destroy and build sounds from nothing without fear of recrimination. Just like he did when he created the e-bowing sounds that dominated tracks on the earlier Sigur Ros albums and their live performances, he has taken the studio technology to its extremes and found something in there.

Opening the album with Exhale he introduces listeners to a mournful drift through a timeless space, where Jonsi’s vocal tracks harmonize over a swirling electronic background and minimal piano lines before building to a powerful completion - this can easily be described as nothing other than utterly beautiful. The vulnerability he excels at on many of his Sigur Ros songs comes to the forefront here, with such haunting tones that you experience a feeling similar to the gentleness of a breath floating out of your mouth.

The album’s title track Shiver follows in a similar vein, but with a totally different structure of overlaid voices to make up the elements of the track. Maybe the closest link to the Sigur Ros music of old, it lulls you into a false sense of security and makes you think that you’re listening to something you’ve already heard and even know. I believe this would easily have been a stand out track on Takk…or likewise.

Cannibal, which features the vocals of the excellent Elizabeth Frazer who I remember watching in awe at a Cocteau Twins performance many moons ago at the Astoria in London, follows the same beautiful tone that the previous two songs on the album have set up. Creating a dreamscape of interwoven voices used as instruments rather than imparting a series of unnecessary lyrics (though words are being said), once again you find yourself taken to another plane.

So when Wildeye starts, with its edits and jerking cuts it feels like you’ve gone from floating down a calm Yangtze River to being taken for a stop-start rickshaw ride around the streets of Shanghai. Jonsi repeats the line “I lose control” numerous times before calming the track down, as if he’s allowing you to take a breather before throwing the electronic drum kit at you full force to end the track.

The evocative Sumario Sem Aldrei Kom has the feeling of a church choir singing in a snow-covered landscape you just happen to walk by heading home for a Christmas Eve gathering of the family. Once again the layers of the voices are the powerhouse of the track, but without the minimalist piano as its beating heart the song wouldn’t carry the passion that flows out from its music. An exceptional track indeed.

Korall shows the lengths to which Jonsi will go to play with his music, using sounds and edits to create effects that never allow you to rest on your haunches but force you to listen. Not the most accessible song on the album, and sometimes sounding like he had asked R2D2 of Star Wars fame to guest vocal on parts of the track, it still creates a wistful soundtrack to a starlit sky. Though I’m not sure why the ending was introduced and has a smell of self-indulgence about it - but, then again, aren’t all the best albums self-indulgence in one-way or another?

Salt Licorice, which features the vocals of Robyn, is the sore thumb of the album in that it’s the one track that, to me, sounds out of place and doesn’t focus on the quality of the music. Sounding like it’s been influenced by German-style Euro dance pop more than anything, it bops along at a pleasant pace in a radio-friendly tone - which probably explains why it was chosen as one of the singles to be released from the album. Expect numerous remixes soon.

Hold brings us back into the general feel of the album, with its range of vocals from low singing to all-out belting (well as belty as Jonsi would ever do!) though doesn’t seem to go anywhere other than being an intro to the next track Swill.

Swill starts off in style, bashing you with a full-on electronic wall of sound before Jonsi’s voice brings us down to earth with his heavily affected vocals. Then you get a series of rises and falls that propel you through what can easily be described as the most ‘unique’ Jonsi track outside of Sigur Ros on the album. So far everything has been pretty good, but this track takes the level up and shouts “This is me, people.” Truly wonderful.

After the noise-fest of Swill we are brought back down to earth with Grenade. A simple vocal, piano and gentle electronic sound combination that still creates an uplifting ambience as you travel through the song. Powerful in its structure and its placing on the album, this track makes you want to clap as it slowly fades out as it ends.

But every performance has an encore and on Shivers it’s the final track Beautiful Boy, with its simple vocals over a slow-drifting soundscape of harmonies and keyboards. Listening to this track you expect to see the titles rising at the end of a movie, after which you turn off the TV and make your way to bed. Of course, you’d also look out of the window over a frost-covered moonlit landscape before you do and this song sound tracks that. A quiet end, a peaceful end.

Shiver, isn’t designed for those that listen to pop, in fact it is listed as Unknown Genre in my iTunes (though I did buy the vinyl version as well), but it’s probably the most pop-like album you’d ever get from Jonsi without destroying his unique take on the music he produces. Simply, it is exceptional. It’s not Sigur Ros, it’s Jonsi and, man, is it a real treat!

Listen to Shiver on Spotify here.

Follow Jonsi on Spotify here.

Follow Jonsi on Instagram here.

Follow After Midnight on Instagram here.

Follow After Midnight on Facebook here.

Music Submissions and Enquires to


Single post: Blog Single Post Widget
bottom of page