Time for mu-mu-music!
I’ll have a go at another album review, this time with good old Björk.
Now, many people I know and even people I do not know but who I’ve heard or read this from think that the best Björk album is Homogenic. I love Homogenic and I will not hate on it, but what I gather from other people’s reactions is that they think everything went a little downhill after Homogenic – with the release of Vespertine. Oh hell, here is one person disagreeing vividly. That would be me, because I think – take a seat – that Vespertine is her best album (gasp).
Yes, Vespertine is the album on whose cover she wears the infamous Swan Dress that caused a stir at the Oscars 2001 – which is not only ridiculous when you think about it, but also terrible. What’s wrong with swans?
Musically she layered even more than she did before and I’ve heard from Hi-Fi aficionados that the Super-CD on full blast is a whole universe in itself, but I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got, don’t get me wrong.
I try to shorten my usually extensive reviews here a little and give you my top-5 and mix the rest together, explaining why they didn’t make the top-5. Deal?
#1 – Undo
Now here it is, the real Undo, making me happy cause I am not confusing it with It’s not up to you anymore. Beats, claps, harps, piano (or whatever and whatnot) create such a wonderful fabric of sound to lie down on, close one’s eyes and start to dream of places that might just look like Lothlorien. Or wherever one would really like to be, okay. The beauty of the whole song is that it builds up from verse to verse, becomes more and more layered, all the while more ethereal and lifting. Superb contrast of raw and vulnerable lyrics with strings and choirs that could just sing you up some cloud. Ok, I deviate, but in case you couldn’t tell: I fucking love that song.
Undo if you’re bleeding.
Undo if you’re sweating.
Undo if you’re crying, darling.
#2 – Frosti
A song that is all just bells. A.W.E.S.O.M.E. Now to give you a little back-story: I was visiting Hakodate in Hokkaido, Japan, and we were going up resident Mount Hakodate, but there was only fog so we spent time inside the building on top and they have a music hall there. And there was a group of schoolgirls playing all sorts of hits and songs with handbells. Which sounded so freakin’ awesome you wouldn’t believe it. And they were all smiles and seemed so happy. Needless to say: I totally forgot about the view from this foggy mountain (well, for a while at least), but have fond memories of bells.
Oh, and the song is my cell-phone ring tone. So if you hear it on the train, somebody is probably calling me.
#3 – Heirloom
For a long time I didn’t even consciously register that the song existed until one fine day while the album ran through it just hit me: I fell in love. Such an amazing song, both repetitive and at the same time building up – towards something that never arrives. While that totally sounds like some lame-ass song, I think it’s wonderful, because it creates such an urgency (and of course beautifully reflects the lyrical theme of a recurring dream). I also like the imagery used in the lyrics. Big fan.
I swallow little glowing lights my mother and son baked for me.
While I’m asleep my mother and son pour in me warm glowing oil into my wide open throat.
I have a recurrent dream.
#4 – Pagan Poetry
Probably the best intro of all songs on the album, my guess is: harps (or is it bells? Oh yes, I suck at things like that). I like the passive aggressive delivery of the lyrics by Björk (although admittedly she’s also shouting a lot in it, which wouldn’t exactly be passive) and once again the fantastic contrast with the choir that lends the song a huge chunk in the fragility department. Since I am a huge fan of bells and harps in music, and this song consists prominently of both, I’m in love with it. This was the second single, and frankly I think it got the best video for any single on Vespertine. Enjoy below.
I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him.
She loves him, she loves him, she loves him, she loves him, she loves him, she loves him, she loves him, she loves him, she loves him, she loves him…
#5 – Unison
A very pleasant surprise at the end of the album, as they usually come with Björk albums, the most positive and pop-y song kicks in last and every time makes me wonder why it was never released as a single. It’s got such a positive vibe that I always feel like a) dancing and b) embracing the planet. Seriously, can you even imagine how much I’d love to be at the most random of parties and have that song start to play? I’d dance a smile on your face.
I never thought I would compromise
The lead single Hidden Place is a safe choice – for Björk’s standards. Meaning that it is the right mixture of mildly catchy, quirky without being off-putting and a good summary of what the album is about in terms of musical layering, choirs and lyrics.
I used to be a big fan of Cocoon, back when it was released as the third single off Vespertine. I still think that musically it is very intriguing with its use of distorted beats and claps (very reminiscent of Selma Songs, right?). Sounding like a Sunday afternoon ready to get you to bed within the next five minutes it is both soothing and sweet, garnered with some sexually charged lyrics – something you have to pay attention to in order to find out.
My relationship with It’s not up to you is kind of messed up because I keep confusing it with Undo, the song following it. Well, not anymore really, but I did. I like Undo better, but that’s curiously why It’s not up to you evokes feelings in me that are probably more positive than I actually really think. That being said, I also think it’s a beautiful song precisely because of the terrific build-up built in (heehee), when the music goes full orchestra on our ears and the choirs kick in. I’m just a bit unnerved by the beatbox-y beats coming with the verses and honestly, I could do without the outro.
Overall, I think these three are good songs, but they don’t blow me out of the water.
I know it’s all there in Aurora, choirs and harps and Björk, but I never got into that song, and up until today it hasn’t changed. I don’t exactly know why, but the song just bores me 30 seconds in and somehow it doesn’t get better from there. Any fans of it out there?
Back when I was 17 I sometimes used Vespertine to fall asleep to. While Aurora set the mood after songs that I like, An Echo, A Stain probably did the rest and made me slide over into the realm of dreams. It’s not that I don’t like it, I actually do, but it’s not a song that I deliberately want to listen to.
Like Harm of Will I can read the title and not remember At All how Sun in my Mouth sounds. And listening to both of them I know exactly why: They unfortunately don’t evoke much more than slight boredom in me.
Yep, short and to the point today, that’s how I am.
If you haven’t had a listen yet, go do so! It’s worth it!