Jonsi mixes solo, Sigur Ros work on ‘We Bought a Zoo’ soundtrack

December 12, 2011
Jonsi
‘We Bought a Zoo’ Soundtrack

With the release of his 2010 solo debut “Go,” Jonsi graduated from impenetrable frontman of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros, who sometimes sings in the made-up language of Hopelandic and generally makes Radiohead look accessible, to an almost-mainstream singer of English-language pop songs used in car commercials.

Jonsi’s solo work contains multitudes: It’s lush and otherworldly and so cinematic that the best of it has been retrofitted into the soundtrack to the Cameron Crowe family film “We Bought a Zoo” with little alteration. “Zoo” doubles as a Jonsi primer, effectively divided into two parts: Highlights from “Go” (such as “Boy Lilikoi” and “Go Do,” already familiar but worth revisiting) and Sigur Ros (the vintage track “Hoppipolla”), and new songs arranged by classical composer Nico Muhly, Jonsi’s “Go” collaborator.

Some of the new tracks are little more than extended snippets, brief orchestral passages heavy on brass and strings, with Jonsi’s signature high-pitched vocals woven throughout. The glockenspiel-centric title track emphasizes his strongest, strangest attribute, a falsetto murmur so quiet it’s impossible to tell if it’s English or the Hopelandic equivalent of scat singing. Therein lies the paradox of Jonsi, whose often indecipherable lyrics, shored up by grand arrangements, hint at great depths.

The disc’s last track, “Gathering Stories,” written with Crowe, is what Jonsi sounds like when he sounds like everybody else. An entirely decent concession to the realities of soundtrack work that includes decipherable, plot-centric lyrics, it might dispel the myth of the elfin Icelandic oracle once and for all.

Allison Stewart


Cover art for the soundtrack of “We Bought A Zoo” with music by Jonsi. (Courtesy of Columbia Records)

Recommended tracks

“Sinking Friendships,” “Hoppipolla,” “Go Do”

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