It’s been a decade since Jónsi released his solo debut Go, and the Sigur Rós singer has yet to follow it up. In between there have been movie scores and soundtrack songs, collaborative releases as Jónsi & Alex and Dark Morph, and a pair of albums from his main band that now also feel like ancient history. In 2016, when they blew my mind at Primavera Sound, Sigur Rós had already been hinting at new music for a while, but the time since has been marked by tumult (tax trouble, a bandmate kicked out after sexual assault allegations) and trifles like cannabis-infused gum drops and an “endless mixtape” — the kinds of portfolio-expanding late-career maneuvers that suggest a once-great artist is now spinning their wheels.
So it’s pleasing to report that Jónsi has his first new solo song in a decade out today, and it rules. Jónsi co-produced “Exhale” with PC Music overlord A. G. Cook and directed the video with Giovanni Ribisi. The song finds Mr. Birgisson singing in English over plaintive, shapeless backdrop with inspirational overtones, eventually building to a glorious clatter. “Just let it go now,” he repeats, arching upwards into that breathtaking falsetto that once seemed so alien and now sounds comfortingly familiar. “It isn’t your fault.” In the video, a dancer emerges from a black polyethylene tarp, sending fragments of it skyward as if they’re his worries and cares.