The Icelandic frontman of Sigur Rós, Jón (Jónsi) Thor Birgisson, famous for his celestial falsetto, mini-mohawk and ability to make his guitar gently weep by playing it with a cello bow, has just released his first 'solo' album.
Last year Jónsi collaborated with his artist partner, Alex Somers, on an album of oblique instrumentals, "Riceboy Sleeps", but "Go" is a far more forthcoming record.
Not only does Jónsi sing but he sings words, many of them in English, so that instead of hearing a lot of meaningless elongated vowels, we can start to pick out a message; the American composer-du-jour Nico Muhly (Björk, Antony and the Johnsons, Grizzly Bear) arranges.
"Go" is a gorgeously giddy album, a buoyant collection of nine songs written over the past 10 years, given wings by composer du jour Nico Muhly's arrangements and brought back down to earth by Finnish percussionist Samuli Kosminen's militaristic drumming. Initially Jonsi wanted to make an intimate folk album, but it didn't work out that way. "It started with me writing songs in my house with piano, ukulele, acoustic guitar and harmonium," he says. "Then it turned into this crazy monster".
Jonsi met Muhly - the gifted young American composer with strong Icelandic links and a passion for fusing tuneful pop with the avant-garde - in New York while touring with Sigur Rós .
Some think of Birgisson as more elven-angel than human: "Go Do", the lead single, finds him as a bird now, encouraging listeners to transcend themselves like some avian motivational speaker. The incursion of electronics and a sense of song balances out the preciousness of Birgisson's falsetto splendidly.
His words often intrigue. "Tornado", for example, sounds like a tear-jerkingly tender attempt at comforting a loved-one, initially. "You'll learn to know", opines the Icelander, before insisting that "You grow like tornado" and "You kill from the inside".
"Animal Arithmetic", which celebrates the joy in all the creeping things, is excellent: a barrage of drums and cantering rhythms rub up against Jónsi's lower register.
The rest of "Go" ebbs and flows, wafts and wanes. The twee "Boy Lilikoi" undoes the great good done by "Animal Arithmetic, there are obvious denouements, and a great deal of soaring.
On balance, though, Jónsi has taken his lungs somewhere more intriguing than Sigur Rós's holding pattern.
He is no longer just the indie-boy Enya.
The album is as relentlessly upbeat as most of the music: life is short, Jonsi is telling us, so enjoy it.
And if you're looking to enjoy yourself, "Go" is a good place to start.Riceboy Sleeps (Digi)