Photographers: Neil Jones ; Colin Northcott; Cameron Crowe.
Enigmatic Icelanders Sigur R¢s' grandiose post-rock sound has become such a ubiquitous presence on the big-screen that it's a surprise it's taken this long for a film director to utilize the magical talents of their frontman Jonsi for an entire soundtrack. Having already licensed three of their songs for 2001's head-scratcher Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe was perhaps always going to be the first to take the plunge, even more so considering that the code name of his comedy drama, We Bought a Zoo, was named after the band's 2007 documentary, Heima, and that he regularly played Jonsi's recent solo debut to set the mood for stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson in various scenes. Three of the most anthemic numbers from Go also appear here ("Boy Lilikoi," "Sinking Friendships," "Go Do"), as does Sigur R¢s' inescapable signature hit "Hoppipolla," but elsewhere, Jonsi has crafted 11 brand new pieces of music, ranging from short and sweet instrumentals such as the otherworldly cinematics of "Sun" and the wave-crashing, bluegrass-tinged "Humming" to emotionally-stirring orchestral numbers arranged by Nico Muhly ("Whole Made Of Pieces," the title track), to several numbers recorded using a toy piano, including the enchanting, childlike lullaby "Brambles" and the echo-laden, out of tune atmospherics of "Sink Ships." While snatches of ghostly choral harmonies can be heard throughout, only two songs allow Jonsi's unmistakable pixie-esque tones to come to the forefront. "Aevin Endar" is a gorgeously intimate hymn-like ballad featuring a delicate melody which briefly threatens to burst into "White Christmas," while "Gathering Stories" (co-written by Crowe) showcases a rare, intelligible lyrical delivery against a stunning backdrop of clattering percussion and sweeping strings. Despite the several contributions from Go, We Bought a Zoo is more in keeping with his band's experimental symphonies than his own electronica-inspired excursions, suggesting Jonsi should have no trouble slotting back into the Sigur R¢s fold for their proposed comeback, but it's still a wonderfully imaginative score which deserves some recognition come awards season. ~ Jon O'Brien
Entertainment Weekly (p.81) - "[T]hick with multitracked vocals, plaintive piano, and swooning orchestral arrangements by classical-music hotshot Nico Muhly..." -- Grade: B
Uncut (magazine) (p.81) - "[With] the delicate music-box melody of 'Brambles', the glacial chorale of 'Snaerisendar' and the pulsing 'Sink Ships'..."