Jonsi
Shiver


2.3
average

Review

by Benjamin Kuettel STAFF
October 26th, 2020 | 18 replies


Release Date: 10/02/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An all-over-the-place attempt at avant-pop ranging from sporadically successful to baffling and obnoxious.

Sigur Rós had their existence tested in numerous ways since the release of Kveikur in 2013. These events included the exits of two long time band members and dealing with tax fraud allegations that was apparently caused by their accountant, the case being dismissed in October 2019. The band’s creative output has been in a laid back state, comprised of various ambient/orchestral side projects and singles throughout the 2010s. It’s unclear whether their signature band sound will ever return, but Jónsi and co. appear to be in in an exploratory phase.

Enter Shiver, a stark departure from the previous, highly optimistic Go from 2010 that fit the style of where Sigur Rós were at the time. Ten years later, he’s followed up with this wholly different release, sounding not dissimilar to artists like James Blake and Bon Iver. Unfortunately, there are numerous off-putting qualities never before heard from Jónsi, in his solo work or elsewhere. A.G. Cook, apparently known for his “dense, chaotic arrangements [being] distorted versions of mainstream pop music,” co-wrote four tracks and produced the whole record; the sometimes unnecessarily noisy musical style may have been partially encouraged by him. Given how this turned out, Jónsi probably should have stuck more to the lighter sounds of his previous solo music and Sigur Rós.

Shiver begins decently enough with the first three tracks: opener “Exhale” is too long with not quite enough going on, but functions as an airy album opener with emphasis on Jónsi’s falsetto alongside scattered percussion and occasional synth notes. “Shiver” is more of a traditional electronic pop song with interesting rhythms and a compelling build-up. Album highlight “Cannibal” featuring Elizabeth Fraser sounds out of place in a good way with soaring synths, heavenly vocal melodies, and some clean electric guitars. After this is sadly where the record jumps off a cliff and never fully recovers.

The middle run of songs are bafflingly incoherent, with a surplus of abrasive electronic sounds and over-produced auto-tune effects on Jónsi’s otherwise emotive singing voice. “Wildeye” is just a mess, a misguided attempt at a kind of club banger with caustic percussion, and no cohesion between each part. The nearly seven-minute long album epic “Sumarið sem aldrei kom” follows, centering on heavily affected and auto-tuned vocals rising and falling in volume throughout, meandering on and on without building to anything, and eventually just ends. “Kórall” is the track with the most potential, but still has too many over-the-top qualities and nonsensical musical transitions to succeed. “Salt Licorice” featuring Robyn is perhaps the worst offender of them all, with headache-inducing pounding percussion and Jónsi and Robyn alternating this annoying, staccato singing style over wonky instrumentation.

Thankfully, most of the album’s second half is more inoffensively banal than outright failure. “Hold” actually exercises some restraint with a bright melody and percussion that doesn’t go overboard. “Swill” is an almost too-bombastic pop song with a hook that almost resembles a siren, impressively walking the line between the sides of good and bad taste. “Grenade” is more traditional and makes use of a classic Sigur Rós build-up that transitions to an emotive climax, then ends with ambience. “Beautiful Boy” is a sleep-inducing but benign album closer centering on over-produced vocals.

Given Jónsi’s past solo releases and Sigur Rós’s discography, Shiver should have been much better than it turned out. While not a complete trainwreck, it disappointingly features a minimum of the signature greatness listeners have come to expect. It’s unclear what the reasoning is behind this new sound, whether he was attempting to sound more relevant, subvert expectations, or some other reason. Exploring a new musical direction could have made for an exciting result, but Shiver is too aimless, scattershot, and inconsistent to be considered a success.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
October 26th 2020


19433 Comments

Album Rating: 2.3

Release date October 2nd. Better late than never!

Demon of the Fall
October 26th 2020


19989 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Seems accurate. This was a massive let down after 'Go'. That middle section you referred to is particularly poor, but mostly just underwhelming otherwise.

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Zackkkk
October 26th 2020


142 Comments


Honestly, half the record sounds like B-sides from Kveikur to me. Very similar, darkish vibe. The remainder of the tracks are all over the place. Also, Salt Licorice is absolutely terrible.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
October 26th 2020


2539 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Some nice songs, but also some of the worst things I've heard in 2020

proscett
October 26th 2020


64 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

damn i love salt licorice

bigguytoo9
October 26th 2020


1093 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

I love sigur ros and have seen them twice, even though this is a solo record. The reviews are making me want to run away from it.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2020


19433 Comments

Album Rating: 2.3

Side note: when I said "various ambient/orchestral side projects and singles throughout the 2010s" that includes am orchestral release coming up on December 4th called Odin's Raven Magic. The music was from 2002 and is now recorded for an official release.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2020


24804 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Ayayay Jonsi, what is this...

Digging: Midwife (USA) - Luminol

granitenotebook
Staff Reviewer
October 27th 2020


1103 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good review. i like this a lot more than you but i also adore a.g. cook's production style

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 28th 2020


67003 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Instrumentally this has some alright ideas and would be way more up my ally than anything else this soporific slut has ever crafted if it wasn't executed so poorly

ghostxmosh
October 30th 2020


24 Comments


I hate how good some of this while some of it is so... mediocre. Some really beautiful work here, then so much to just throw away

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2020


19433 Comments

Album Rating: 2.3

Agreed, weird how it turned out to be such a misstep. I wonder if it was on the producer's end, but who knows.

daisukesato
November 1st 2020


2 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Ugh I wanted this to be good so so much

brandontaylor
November 3rd 2020


1062 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

ag cook really missed with this one, wherever i can spot his influence on this it tends to be detracting. however, it does have some really great tracks... 'swill' and 'cannibal' are great highlights for me and the robyn track kinda goes off for me event though it feels like it doesnt belong on this album

Lord(e)Po)))ts
November 3rd 2020


67003 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

ag cook is the least worst part of this tbh

keaton_86
November 19th 2020


253 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I liked all of it except salt liquorice and the starting vocals of cannibal

RemedyLane99
December 8th 2020


2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I know it might sound strange, but I consider "Shiver" to be a good album which reaches a listener who's open to new directions and a more electronic sound range. "Exhale" even might be one of 2020's most awesome songs, "Cannibal" is a great duet and I love, how this Flume-like atmosphere unfolds. "Grenade" marks the big ballad. Still, I understand why some of you expected something else after "Go".



All in all, A. G. Cook's production gives Jónsi and this album much more uniqueness than it takes.

SAPoodle
January 13th 2021


800 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Kind of enjoy this more than Go which is surprising. But I'm not huge on either album, even though Sigur Ros are one of my favourite bands ever



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