Album review: Riceboy Sleeps (by Jónsi and Alex)

Favorite songs: (1) Happiness, (6) All the Big Trees, (8) Howl.

Jónsi and Alex’s first collaboration Riceboy Sleeps shows the unique power of their relationship. Free from his entanglements of Sigur Rós, Jónsi no longer needs to create chart-topping, up-tempo pop hits. He finds a space with Alex to indulge upon the quiet, introspective, ambient landscapes that were only hinted at in his previous work.

Like how a microscope can reveal new, complex, deep realms of detail in surfaces that would otherwise be easily passed over by a casual glance, Riceboy Sleeps provides a new look at these tiny aural moments: building upon them, developing them, giving them room to breathe, exist, and flourish on their own.

Despite the powerful impact Riceboy Sleeps makes on its listener, the album’s vocals are relegated to a surprisingly limited role. Whispers of Jónsi’s faint falsetto voice can be heard in the swells of the instrumental ambiance, and other times the melodies are accompanied by the ethereal echoes of a remarkable choir – beautifully blended like delicate watercolors – in a clearly expansive, large room. But the vocals are a supplement, not focal point, of this album.

The songs that make up Riceboy Sleeps take their time and exist comfortably as themselves. Unlike the once groundbreaking yet now dated songs of the Sigur Rós era, these tracks do not give in to the desperate need for catchy beats, intense rhythms, or sudden crescendos. The instruments’ calm, confident tone provides a sound landscape that is simply unparalleled in harmony and beauty – one that offers timeless companionship.

Listening to this album makes it clear that Alex had a significant effect on Jónsi. Discovering this album was such a personal pleasure. Seeing the growth and development of two artists working together, sharing what must be a very intimate and vulnerable relationship, and hearing the joy and love that comes out of every note they produced together – all of those reasons are why Riceboy Sleeps is one of my favorite albums of all time.