Showing posts with label bjork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bjork. Show all posts

Monday, November 27, 2017

video review: 'utopia' by björk

Man, this was a tough review to put together... and honestly, I wish I liked this a lot more... eh, it happens. Next up, let's do something weird - stay tuned!

album review: 'utopia' by bjork

So I've talked about 'breakup albums' before in this series, many of which stand as some of the most evocative and emotional records that an artist can make, delving into a relationship's dissolution in real time and exploring the often complex situation to mine some sort of deeper meaning or closure. But what gets talked about a lot less is what comes after, when the emotions behind the breakup are settled, and while the memory might linger, there are new paths and opportunities going forward. Records that take this sort of direct sequel approach are much rarer, mostly because the emotional dynamic is actually trickier: the breakup provides context for the journey of the album's protagonist, but it can't overshadow the primary emotions running through it, and that's a tough balance to walk, both in lyrics and performance.

Enter Bjork, one of the most boundary-pushing artists in the past thirty years and easily one of the most challenging - and while I've talked about how it took me a while to come around on her work, the past two years since I reviewed Vulnicura has only deepened my affection for her records and her artistic process. And while I was a tad annoyed that her only creative partner on this project Utopia was Arca - an electronic producer who with every project and collaboration continues to run out his clock in my books - I was very intrigued by where Bjork wanted to take this. For one, she described this record as her 'tinder record', where she was looking to find that new love and passion, but she was also looking to explore and dissect utopian ideals, the Paradisio to Vulnicura's Inferno. Now I did have some reservations - not only was this her longest record at over an hour, utopian ideas tend to be tough to crack or make palatable to our quasi-dystopian world... but on the other hand, Bjork is a genius, her interviews before the record showed she was plenty aware and capable of the difficult task ahead of her, and considering the sonic palette was reportedly calling back to Vespertine - Bjork's second best record after Post - I was really excited for this. So, what did I find in Utopia?

Monday, February 16, 2015

video review: 'vulnicura' by björk

And that's me catching up. Whew, that feels nice.

Okay, Imagine Dragons and Father John Misty time, stay tuned!

album review: 'vulnicura' by björk

And now we come to an artist to which I have a complicated relationship, the sort I can definitely respect but not quite love, one that I understand but struggle to like. An artist that has received critical acclaim throughout her career, but a career that I'd ultimately brand as pretty uneven.

Yep, it's time that I finally talk about Bjork, Icelandic singer-songwriter and one of the most distinctive and unique performers of her time. Breaking the mid-90s, Bjork immediately established herself through her uniquely expressive voice and half-playful, half-tragic approach to her delivery and songwriting. And for the longest time for me, that voice put me off really getting into her, unearthly and surprisingly visceral but just never really gripping me. And one of the reasons this review is late is because I went back and listened through Bjork's entire discography before covering this record, which leaked months ahead of schedule. So now with the benefit of added context, what do I think of her?

Well, while I've come to appreciate her and found some of her material very powerful and evocative, she can be very hit-and-miss for me. Like most critics, I tend to like her 90s material a lot more than her releases in the 2000s, mostly because those newer records have some great ideas that don't quite materialize as well as I'd hope. Part of this comes in a change in focus, in that most of Bjork's early work had a more intimate, almost primal thematic focus, which allowed her off-kilter vocals and abstract lyrics to really shine. But starting around Medulla, her material got a lot more fragmented, with experimentation that felt half-realized and really did not pay the same dividends as they did on previous records. The a capella of Medulla, the horns on Volta, and especially the attempted blend of delicate melodies with the half-formed, spasmodic grooves of Biophilia, they never resonated in the same way as her earlier material did, and with her lyrics becoming more politically-themed and outwardly focused which didn't fit nearly as well, I just couldn't connect with Bjork's material in the same way. I'm not saying it didn't have an audience, but these were records that felt thin conceptually and almost unfinished, lacking the melodic presence and foundation to support the flights of experimentation.

But rumour has it her newest album was coming back to earth, back to the potent emotions that drove Homogenic and Vespertine. And while Post is probably my favourite Bjork album, Vespertine is a close second, so I planned to revisit her entire discography to prepare - and then the album dropped two months early. So much for that, but I figured I wanted to be fair and thus went through the back catalog regardless - better late and right than early and uninformed. So finally I dug into Vulnicura - is it the return to form for which we've been hoping?