Apologies: there are a few accents missing from this review. For Agust’s correct name, or rather the correct spelling of his name, please refer to the sleeves of your old GusGus records, as he is none other but the former singer in said Icelandic success story, and co-founder to boot. GusGus achieved no fewer than three domestic number one singles and a slew of awards, no meagre feat by any means, but for his debut solo album Agust has ditched the dance-friendly beats so easily crafted by his former outfit: Swallowed A Star is a grand work, symphonic pop in its finest, gently alluring pomposity.
But wait, please: much like the more understated moments of Björk’s work to date – Vespertine for example – Agust’s quasi-classical work rarely sounds bloated; rarely does it layer strings where they’re unnecessary. Thus, we’re left with a record that skilfully employs violin and cello where it’s at its most beautiful; never does a song come across as an Embrace-authored ballad of utmost blandness, indie-rock dressed in the emperor’s tattered and tired clothes.
‘Nobody Else’, for example, is lyrically simplistic, literally repeating "You don’t want nobody else", ‘til the song’s end. Why? "Cos you got me, babe." And that’s that – two lines, but the most exquisite, subtly stirring strings you’re likely to hear this side of daytime Radio 3. The following song, ‘The Gray’, treads a similar path: grand in design yet wonderfully accessible in execution. The trick’s repeated, almost throughout – only a handful of songs stray from the strings-and-vocals-and-little-else construction of Swallowed A Star’s first few offerings. On paper it sounds contrived; when the music wraps itself about you, blanket-like, you’ll forget about such relatively minor gripes, such is the beauty and warmth everywhere your ears can bend. Agust’s music can easily turn the hardest of men into quivering jelly babies; chances are it could melt the northern icecaps so near to its author’s homeland with its beauty, too.
Agust is assisted throughout Swallowed A Star by a gentleman named Bix, remixer to the likes of Madonna and Beck. It’s unclear what tracks belong most to whom, but Agust’s name and face on the cover suggests it’s he that guided these songs to their destination; that’s to every single beat of your aching heart, incidentally.
8Mike Diver's Score