Who is Þórir Georg Jónsson?
I have to admit I was skeptical when I first saw the It’s A Wonderful Life CD. I mean, it’s not exactly the most traditional packaging. Sure, I bought the Slugs CD that came in a vacuum sealed pouch, the kind you’d normally associate with food preservation systems for sale on late night TV when you can’t seem to fall asleep because you’ve had too much to drink. But this was something different. A yellow paper envelope with hand-drawn art, and inside a hand-sewn book containing all the lyrics and a simple CD. Ingvar at Lucky Records put a copy of this aside for me because it’s local (to Iceland), unique, and about as limited as you can get – my copy is #8 of 40. Ingvar is all about supporting the local little guy who makes the effort to put out something personal, so I tend to rely on his advice. And he never steers me wrong.
The flyer inside It’s A Wonderful Life describes it as “Icelandic-lo-fi-psych-pop-punk,” which is a surprisingly good description. Maybe not much on the pop side, perhaps more folkish IMO, but we’ve got plenty of lo-fi and psych, along with a heavy dose of DIY punk ethic. This is about as DIY as it gets – the songs are all just Þórir and his guitar, with some echoey vocals that sound like they were recorded by a man singing into a something metallic in someplace like a big, old, abandoned prison. And the desperation… the desperation in his voice… you can’t ignore this music; it won’t fade into the background; there’s too much feeling here. Is it pain, or sadness, or resignation?
Darkness came and stayed.
It kept me focusing on my vices.
A man can only take so much.
Such weak and weary ways.
Too stubborn to make compromises,
and then dwell on one’s mistakes.
It makes you feel so powerless
when you’re on the brink.
— Þórir Georg
Þórir Georg is the Icelandic lo-fi Nick Drake.
The songs are all in English, and as mentioned previously there is a full lyric booklet included with the CD. But you don’t really need it, because Þórir sings very clearly – you won’t have any trouble following the words, and his haunting singing forces you to listen, calling you in like a spirit in a dark foggy night. I’m not sure if the songs have names… because they aren’t named anywhere in the package, and the CD doesn’t generate any track titles when I play it. But it doesn’t matter. This isn’t an album in the way we’re used to thinking of one. It’s a man exposing himself to you in a very intimate way, alone with his guitar. It needs to come in this envelope that conceals it from view. You need to make a special effort to look inside. It’s personal. And that is it’s beauty.
The songs come from a dark and lonely place. It’s not feel-good music. It’s real. They seem to come from a place not of wallowing in being alone, but embracing and accepting it. Is it desperate, or just desolate? Can you find a certain happiness and comfort in the moodiness? Þórir seems to vacillate between the extremes. I don’t think we’re supposed to find an answer here. It’s just not that simple.
I took a look at Þórir Georg’s website… hell, I even found him on Facebook and thought about emailing him to get some comments from him for this post. But I’ll be honest. I didn’t do that because I kind of relished not knowing, at least not while I was writing this. There’s a mystery here. Would it be spoiled if I exchanged emails with the artist? Maybe I’ll find out at some point. But not now. For now I want to sit back with a cocktail and listen… experience It’s A Wonderful Life… absorb it. So good….