08 May 2007

NMT: 08 MAY 07 Bjork --- Volta

Two album reviews in one day?!? Yep.

Bjork's new album is so good I actually bought it on physical media. That doesn't happen too often for me nowadays.

Shorter review: Earerojewaaaaaaaareeeoaaaaannnggaooooooaahrrrooooohhh!!!
(that's Bjorkspeak for, this stuff kicks ass!!!)

I've been a fan of Björk Guðmundsdóttir for quite some time. Ever since the 2nd Sugarcubes album. I'll follow her anywhere she goes musically, basically, so I'm not exactly unbiased. Also, if you want to see an amazing performer live, then get yourself to one of her concerts, you are unlikely to be disappointed. She's really one of the most unique and special talents on this planet.

As far as this album goes, this may be the best one that she's released. It's really a remarkable collection of music.

I'll do the full song by song break down.

1. Earth Intruders
If I could make any sense out of the lyrical content of this song, I'm sure I'd hate it for its insipid Gaiaists stupidity, but luckily this is a Bjork song, so whatever point she's trying to make is buried in strange metaphor and bizarre phrasing. As far as the soundscape goes, it's fantastic, propulsive, primitive and her singing is fantastic. Did I mention Timbaland produced this track? May seem like a strange musical marriage, but it works.

2. Wanderlust
The musical bridge between tracks one and two consists of ship foghorns. How cool is that? No really, it's fan-freakin'-tastic. Foghorns are the new cowbell. Wanderlust is another strong song that's reminiscent of tracks from her Homogenic album, but different enough to show some evolution. The use of a brass section on this song is pretty amazing. A big sounding song, undergirded by an insistent techno beat topped with soaring vocals. Good stuff.

3. The Dull Flame of Desire
Another interesting bridge, this album is definitely meant to be heard as a whole and in order, and not in discrete chunks. Bjork gets all film-geeky with this one, to quote the liner notes, "lyrics taken from a translation of a poem by Fyodor Tyutchev (1803-1870) as it appears in the film Stalker by Andrew Tarkovsky". A strange and delicate song, a duet between her and Antony, another really strong track. The poem is repeated a few times throughout this lengthy track, building upon itself over and over again. Each repetition is a delivered differently, hitting different emotional notes each time. Pretty sophisticated stuff.

4. Innocence
Another track with Timbaland. It's Bjork's turn to bringsexyback. More Bjork-y than Timbaland-y. Works. Well. Almost early Prince-like, but not really. Hard to describe, but it's definitely a dance floor track.

5. I See Who You Are
Oh, it's one of those weird little talk-singy songs she does over a strange and kind of sparse soundscape. And that's a problem? There's a bit of a dripping water and Asian feel to the music. Her voice is a really remarkable instrument, and she uses it well on this song.

6. Vertebrae by Vertebrae
Trainlike sounds are the bridge between these tracks. This track has a martial drum feel to it. Sounds like background music to a very strange film. Another vocal performance that sounds in the neighborhood of unhinged at times, never quite sure if she's nuts, or just sounds nuts, either way it makes for compelling listening.

7. Pneumonia
Horns and the sound of rain are prominent in this song. Her vocals are pushed way back in the mix, almost an afterthought. This is one of those Bjork songs that may turn off non-fans. It may be a bit indulgent, a bit abrassive, a bit slow, and the lyrics are strange and disconnected, but I don't care, I'm buying what she's selling.

8. Hope
Another Timbaland moment. I'm pretty sure that the political message within this song is one that I abhor and represents the absolute worst kind of moral relativism, but nobody listens to Bjork for her lyrical brilliance (that would be like going to a Matt Barney film for the plotting), or at least if they do, they are on as many and varied drugs as she is. With that out of the way, it's a damn fine track. I love the way she says, "virlwind'. Giving this song a middle eastern seems like an obvious move given its subject matter of a female suicide bomber, but makes for an interesting song.

9. Declare Independence
This song is so punk it's not even funny. Wouldn't have been out of place back in the late 70s or early 80s. Think "Warm Leatherette" and then you'll know what I'm talking about. This track is propulsive, full of energy. Songs this simple are actual quite hard to pull off. She does it here with style. This just keeps getting better as it keeps on going. Simplicity requires daring, this song has it.

10. My Juvenile
Big change of pace after the previous track. Another one of those more 'typical' Bjork-y tracks, but it has the benefit of Antony also singing on the track. His tone contrasts hers, and offers an interesting counterpoint within the song. The musical setting is very minimalist, but that just gives more room for the vocals to soar, and soar they do (unless you find her style annoying, in which case the minimalist setting just gives her more room to be grating).

I thoroughly enjoyed this album, but I can understand those that don't get her. But for those that do, this is one of the most Bjork-like Bjork albums in quite some time, and for that I'm grateful and can recommend this album highly.

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