Jónsi made us the ultimate calming self-isolation playlist

Let the Icelandic artist soothe your lockdown-weary soul.

by Frankie Dunn
27 May 2020, 3:08pm

Photography Barnaby Roper

Think of Jónsi and what comes to mind? The Icelandic wilderness perhaps, that Ryan McGinley-shot Sigur Rós album cover from 2008, or falling asleep to the calming sounds of his 2009 collaboration with Alex Somers, Riceboy Sleeps. You might also think of nature and the beauty of the well-captured field recordings that have long appeared across his work, providing the perfect score to our fractured world.

Last month, probably sensing we needed it, Jónsi released his first solo single in a whole decade. “Exhale” is a glitchy piano composition that was, rather unexpectedly, co-produced by A.G. Cook of London’s PC Music -- one artist’s organic creations meeting another’s more experimental outlook halfway. The accompanying music video was directed in collaboration with actor Giovanni Ribisi and follows a dancer moving in monochrome.

Currently locked down at home in Los Angeles, alone save for his dog Atlas, Jónsi has turned to cooking: making his own incense and sharing video guides to creating his own personal chilli oil recipe. “Other than being mildly ill with COVID-19, I’ve enjoyed being home and working on various creative exploits,” he tells i-D. By the looks of things, he’s well over the worst of it and back to appreciating the little things in life: chewing frankincense resin, admiring his neighbourhood jacaranda blossom and watching monarch butterflies circle the flowers in his garden.

Despite his many creative outlets, Jónsi is quick to remind you that there’s zero pressure to keep at it. “You don’t have to be creative if you don’t feel creative,” he says. "You don’t have to feel guilty about not doing anything. You don’t have to clean your house, you can slow down and be introspective. It's ok. It isn’t your fault.”

Given Jónsi’s music has long been a go-to for getting us through stressful times, we thought we’d seek advice from the master and ask him to make us a self-isolation playlist. Opening with thirty minutes of “Wood-masted Sailboat” (close your eyes and you’re rocking slowly on the ocean), the four-hour long selection takes us through a thunderstorm, past a humpback whale choir and via Times Square for a spot of crowd-based nostalgia and a reminder of what once was. A sound bath to rival all others. “Close your eyes and hear the outdoors indoors,” Jónsi says of his curation.

Sigur Rós
self-isolation playlist