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Björk


Country of origin:

Iceland

Type of music generally:

Most of her work is evocative/eclectic, somewhat experimental, techno-flavoured alternative pop with elements of ectronica. One jazz album.

Status:

Most recent release, Biophilia Live (live 2-CD/DVD or blueray, 2014); most recent release of all-new material Biophilia (2011)

See also:

The official Björk site

The Björk Web Ring

The Ectophiles' Guide entry for Björk's former bands, The Sugarcubes and Kukl. She was also at one time in a band called tappi tikarrass.

Comparisons:

Highly individual, but many artists are learning from her, especially Bellatrix and Bloem de Ligny

Covers/own material:

Own, frequently co-writes songs, occasional covers

General comments:

Björk is one of the most highly individual artists around today. Her songs are influenced by dance, electronica, jazz, Icelandic folk music, and even big band. Probably the most distinctive quality to her music is her singing. Her voice is a force of nature, which she uses to coo quietly or growl ferociously. She is a true original. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

Björk was broken in the U.K. first, a place where success can be more closely linked to critical acclaim than in the U.S. where it hardly matters. The Sugarcubes had a lot to do with it, but everyone was terribly disappointed to find Einar Orn ranting all over The Sugarcubes' albums, but "Birthday" kept them interested in what the band were doing. Thus, when Debut came out, not only did they have an album that was superior to all of Björk's former band's work, but was also free of annoying male vocals, and showed a remarkable shift in genre to something more aligned with Massive Attack and Soul II Soul—who were terribly cool and in demand. And from there she became huge.
     I find Björk's solo work "colder" than her work with The Sugarcubes especially so on Homogenic, to which "iceberg pop" applies perfectly.
     Perhaps because she's so original that people forget she's dance based. Her first album is really interesting dance-jazz-pop with a lot of percussion, her second is simply a riot of styles which has something for everyone, and the third is quite weird (but wonderful), contrasting strings with beats made out of strange (and sometimes grinding) sounds. Really unconventional and constantly changing. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

Weird has got to be Björk, whose voice is as unique as she is. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)

I LOVE Björk. She's an oddball, but very cool and very entertaining.(ecalos@earthlink.net)

note that Björk's music can be beautiful, and her voice wonderful, even though her voice on its own may not be beautiful. (bossert@suddensound.com)

Björk has been one of my personal musical goddesses for a while now. (meth@smoe.org)

She's definitely one of mine. Her music has gotten more and more fascinating with each record. (Neile)

artists like Björk keep coming up with brilliant albums after brilliant album. the money that she is able to make off the success of each album fuels her desire to make more interesting and challenging work. i think Homogenic was worlds better than Debut, and i thought Debut was a pretty darn good album when it came out. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Bjork entered my life at age 15, and we've enjoyed many happy years together. But, honestly, I haven't liked much of her stuff since Vespertine. Her voice kinda irritates me now, actually. :-( (lasherboy@gmail.com)

Comments about live performance:

Like the rest of her current tour she was playing with a drum machine, and a musician to operate it, and a string octet. The result is not as strange as could be expected, the drum machine playing an important role. How can I describe Björk on stage? Elfin would be the best term, I think. She comes in a sort of white dress with wings (not unlike Kate Bush's bat costume on the cover of Never For Ever) and she takes poses like a child would do. When she moves this impression disappears completely though. She seemed a little detached, like if she was playing a role, she didn't seem to really believe in what she was doing. I don't know if she is always like that, it gives a strange impression to the audience. The music was great so it compensated a bit for her attitude. "Hyperballad" with strings is definitely better than the original version, as you already know if you bought Telegram. (Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)

love the innovation, the voice that flies all over, the strange lyrics and some of her songs..BUT, saw her live once, ugh ugh ugh...acting like a 10 year old, dressed in a little girl dress and baby janes and running all over the stage and pouting and sticking out her tongue at audience and I ALMOST PUKED thinking, wow, I came here as a fellow avant artist to see how she took that artistic sensibility into performance, expecting performance art of some kind and saw a bad kiddie-porn, fake rock act from a grown woman, singer-songwriter, mother...and of course the crowd loved it, they roared each time she stuck her itty finger in her mouth...and all around me said "Ohhhh, she's so cute!"...so I am now afraid of concerts and only go see those obscure performers as much as possible...haha...I still love her voice and music also, but will avoid all "ACTS". (cyo@landoftheblind.com)

I saw Björk at a small venue in Philly a couple of years back. She was everything that I had hoped for and more. (FAMarcus@aol.com)

HBO Reverb: Björk and the Riverside Church: one of my favorite places in NYC, by the way. and wow. wow wow. what a show. i had let ms. Gudmundsdottir (sorry for the ASCII) kind of drift to a corner of my mind, but this performance dusted her off and put her back into the middle of my musical thoughts. wow wow. the concert had moments of pure vocal beauty. Vespertine is probably my favorite new album of the year, but i think it has hit me much harder having seen it first. (1/02, bossert@suddensound.com)

I hadn't seen Björk since 1995, so there was much anticipation all around. She didn't disappoint. :)
     The lights went down, the crowd went NUTS, and the Icelandic String Octet, then Matmos, then Zeena Parkins took the stage, then finally Björk, dressed as what I could only characterize as a superhero from another dimension. She had identical aquamarine fans attached to her head around each ear, and was wearing a Spandex bodysuit with starbursts on one shoulder and all along the other side, then some taffeta thing on the other shoulder slinking down her back to form an almost tutu-like thing around her waist.
     I don't have a setliest, but I do know that she played "Pagan Poetry", "Aurora", "It's Not Up To You", "An Echo, A Stain" and "Heirloom" from Vespertine, as well as "All Is Full Of Love", "I've Seen It All", and a nice Icelandic piece that was a B-Side from the "Venus As A Boy" EP; and she ended the main set with "Pluto". It was an all-out sonic and visual assault, with strobe lights, and a projection behind the musicians of a naked guy writhing about, seemingly as pained by the song as I was.
     After some time for recovery, they all came back and did a two-song encore, something in Icelandic and then "Human Behaviour", which I was really happy to hear.
     All in all, it was a great show. Björk is doing things in a completely different way that make you think, "why haven't hundreds of people thought of doing this before?" She could so easily have become a parody of herself by now, and yet she's still out there making very important art. Hopefully it won't be another 8 years before I get to see her again. (9/03, meth@smoe.org)

Recommended first album:

Each album of hers is quite different in flavour and I love them all for various reasons, but my favourites overall are homogenic, Vespertine, and Medúlla. With each new album I think I can't possibly love it more than the previous one, but I always do. (Neile)

My favorite Björk album, one of my all-time favorites from anybody for that matter, remains Debut. (alundra@netos.com)

Recordings include:


Gling-Glo

as Björk Gudmundsdottir & trio Gudmundar Ingoldssonar

Release info:

1990—One Little Indian/Mother Records—TPLP61CD

Availability:

wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended only for jazz lovers or Björk completists

Group members:

Gudmundur Ingolfsson—piano og taborina
Gudmundur Steingrimmson—trommur, marakas, hreindyrabjollur
Pordur Hognason—bassi
Björk Gudmundsdottir, songur og munnharpa

Comments:

A fun collection of standard-sounding jazz tunes written by a variety of people—all with Björk's distinctive vocals. I guess, having grown up hearing this type of jazz, I like this a little better than most people would. Having Björk's expressive voice gives new life to the rather generic jazz music. I don't listen to this a lot, but I do get a kick out of it when I do. (Neile)

A collection of mostly Icelandic (with one English language) jazz standards, with Björk accompanied by a full band. While it is interesting to hear Björk's take on these tunes, I must admit that I have only listened to this CD twice. Recommended only for fanatics who want a complete collection. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)


Debut

Release info:

1993—Elektra Warner—9 61468-2

Availability:

wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Björk—vocals, keyboards, arrangement of brass

Guest artists:

Marius De Vries—keyboards and programming
Paul Waller—keyboards and programming
Martin Virgo—keyboards and programming
Bruce Smith—drums and percussion
Nellee Hooper—drums and percussion
Corki Hale—harp
Garry Hughes—keyboards, Hammond organ
Luis Jardim—bass, drums, percussion
Jhelisa Anderson—backing vocals
Jon Mallison—guitar
Talvin Singh—tabla, musical director for strings
Sureh Sathe—arrangement of strings
Oliver Lake—arrangement of brass, brass
Gary Barnacle—brass
Mike Mower—brass

Produced by:

Nellee Hooper and Björk

Comments:

Well, from the first song ("Human Behavior" for those who don't care, don't dare, or don't yet know it's there), I was in love. Other favorites (as in "record right away for your walkman") include: "Crying," "Venus As A Boy," Big Time Sensuality," "One Day" and "Come To Me." I was thrilled to the bone. But when I heard "Violently Happy," I thought I was stoned. Better even than Erasure's "Turns The Love To Anger" at building and sustaining excitement, I danced until I dropped! Lines like "I'm driving my car too fast with ecstatic music on" and "I'm telling people to jump off roofs with me" catapulted the album to #2 on my best of 1993 list!
     I love this album! So much so that I ran out two days after I got it to get the remix singles. Do I recommend it to everyone? Well...she's very vocally expressive, her lyrics are emotionally descriptive (and imaginatively so), and the music is trance-inducing. I hear traces of Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Trent Reznor and Enigma. Now if you think a stew like that is easily boiled, you're not in the music biz. Be warned, though, that about half of the tracks are "club" songs. So if tribal beats turn your feet to lead, maybe you'll be disappointed. But she also tackles jazz, pop and cabaret (if "Like Someone In Love" isn't the most perverse Torch song I ever heard, I'll be a monkee's uncle). Don't think for one moment that any of this is done traditionally. Björk seems to take hold of a style and break its neck so it bends to her will. It's unlikely you'd be unshaken by this little earthquake of a singer. (I_SW@zis.ziff.com)

Debut was a groundbreaking album that caught even the most die-hard Sugarcubes fans by surprise. In the space of a few years, Björk had gone from vocally sparring with the discordant Einar on the last The Sugarcubes album to outdoing every single contender in the girl-vocal indie-pop stakes, taking fans on board along the way from the fashion-obsessed to commercial radio junkies. Debut took everything current about pop music and filtered it through a shimmering haze of cellophane production and jazz-inspired arrangements, stopping every few songs for an effortless example of how a shiny happy pop song should sound. (ahoran@ozemail.com.au)

A delightful combination of unique vocals and contrasting instrumental arrangements. She could become a megastar, she could vanish without trace, or she could become a significant artist of great stature. I eagerly await more. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

I had to listen to this a few times before I started to like it. The song that grabbed me initially was "There's more to life than this". (awphili@hacktic.nl)

This one spent a lot of time in my CD player. Very inventive and highly enjoyable. Of course, Björk could sing selections from the phone book and I'd be happy. Most of the songs on Debut are a bit quieter and simpler than those on Post, so I often forget how many perfect gems there are on this album. Despite a few slip-ups, such as the dirge-like "The Anchor Song," this is still a great collection. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

This album took me by surprise. I remember liking Björk's contribution to The Sugarcubes, but disliking other parts of the band's sound enough that I never bought an album. After hearing ectophiles talking about how wonderful much of this album was, we eventually got it—and I was delighted by how much I enjoy it. Though I'm not a huge dance or electronic music fan, Björk voice and her sensibility keep me listening. (Neile)

I LOVE debut—it's great music to clean house to, dance like a lunatic around the apartment, etc. (groovy@his.com) I've had Post for a while, and liked it, but I think I like this one better. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

Most people seemed to either love or hate Debut, with its deceptively simple Casiotone-plus-beatbox style of dance pop. I definitely loved it. Debut has great melodies, Björk's strong, distinctive voice and a fresh, magical quality. (drk@leland.stanford.edu)

It's fun to listen in its variety but I'm not one for techno/dance/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. (MIHARKI@indsvax1.indstate.edu)

When it came out, I said it was the album of the year. That was before Jane Siberry's When I Was A Boy came out but it's still one of the best of 1993. (meth@smoe.org)

Lots of fun! Dance and enjoy. (vickie@enteract.com)


Post

Release info:

1995—Elektra/Warner—61740-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Björk—vocals, keyboards, organ, string arrangement, brass arrangement

Guest artists:

Graham Massey—keyboards, programming
Marius De Vries—keyboards, programming
Eumir Deodato—string arrangements, conducting
Isobel Griffiths—orchestral contractor
Gavin Wright—orchestra leader
John Altman—orchestral arrangement, conducting
Tricky—programming, keyboards
Lenny Franchi—programming
Einar Orn—trumpet
Stuart Brooks—trumpet
Gary Barnacle—soprano sax
Talvin Singh—percussion
Guy Sigworth—harpsichord
Jim Couza—hammered dulcimer
Marcus Dravs—electronic noises

Produced by:

Björk, variously with Nellee Hooper, Graham Massey, Tricky, Howie Bernstein

Comments:

This is the quintessential Björk for me (until her next album comes out). The songs are more mature and compelling than those on Debut. And, even though the music is influenced by everything from techno to big band, the album works as a coherent whole thanks to Björk's skewed pop sensibility. A classic from beginning to end. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

Truly a wonderfully transcendent album—a surprising and constant delight. Björk even manages to make me love dance music. I especially love the song "Isobel" and the video she made for "It's oh So Quiet"—those two songs typify what I love best about this album: mysterious beauty and a sense of playfulness. (Neile)

It's good, yes, but I don't think anything could live up to the promise of Debut. (meth@smoe.org)

A consistently interesting, highly polished, and extremely listenable album. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Even better than Debut, and that was a hard one to beat. (lombaeg@donald.interpac.be)

Björk is strange. somehow, she takes material i feel i would not normally like and makes it not only acceptable, but wonderful. strange quality. i wasn't all that thrilled with debut; actually i loved most of the first half of the album and couldn't stand most of the second. post, on the other hand, is delightful all the way through. every song on here works for me. with her, it's mainly music and style that draws me...particularly since i can't understand what the hell she's singing most of the time. when i do figure out the lyrics, though, or read them, it still stands up well—i adore the very strange quality of what she's saying. (damon)

I wasn't sure what to make of this album for a little while, having heard nothing by her before. And the eclectic nature of her music tends to take a while to grow on you. With that said, of the 11 tracks on the disc, I could live without 3 of them, those being "Army of Me" (the opening track), "The Modern Things", and "Enjoy". They are mostly dance songs which in and of itself is fine, but just not for me. The rest of the disc features much more orchestration (viola, cello) which I tend to like quite a bit more. "It's Oh So Quiet" obviously is a great tune. It could have been a bit longer for my taste though—I think it only runs about 3 1/2 mins. I really like the way Björk sings on "Isobel", a longer song with the sweeping orchestration coming through, but with lyrics that beg for some kind of interpretation. Although most of the songs' lyrics are like that. "Possibly Maybe" is possibly my favorite song on the album. ;-) I like how the keyboard playing just kind of hangs in the background giving a haunting quality to the song. The tune "I Miss You" while again being somewhat of a dance song, features the trumpet and sax that make the song listenable to me. And the harpsichord on "Cover Me" goes very well with Björk's style of singing. The final track "Headphones" is a quiet, dreamy type of song that finishes up the album quite nicely. So, to sum up, I don't regret buying the CD. I don't listen to it all that often, but when I do, I like it. I seem to like it best when I'm at work with the headphones on. (kcd@cray.com)

I think it's pretty good, especially "Hyper-ballad". It's easy to get tired of her vocal quirks though. (dixon@physics.Berkeley.EDU)

Some of the songs on the disc ("Headphones", "Possibly Maybe") are just brilliant and deserving of your purchase. Plus, the rest of it you can dance to. Every song is wonderful and very Björk. Need anything else be said? (cinnamon@one.net)

Björk chirps and twitters like an otter at play; at times she nearly achieves a dolphinlike whistle. On Post, the sheer exuberance of her voice glitters like a diamond against the dark weight of the beat and the density of Nellee Hooper's production. Except for her numbingly faithful reproduction of Betty Hutton's "It's Oh So Quiet" (not even the screams originate with Björk), Post is a nearly perfect Pop confection. (lissener@wwa.com)

It's a good album, but it doesn't work as well for me as Debut did (and does). It tries to be more musically challenging, with all those older musical styles mixed together, but for me Björk's voice doesn't really work that way. There are a few tracks on Post which I like a lot, but not that many. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

Post is very different from Debut, in my opinion. It starts like Debut but then it turns into a different direction. It's much quieter and very innovative and experimental. I prefer the second part of Post. The big band number is great and so are the sound sculptures á la Kate Bush. I listened to Post over and over and I find it the best and most innovative album that I've heard in months. But that's only my opinion. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

So is Post a worthy successor to Debut? Sort of. The album isn't much of an artistic variation from Debut. There are fewer dance beats (and no disco like "Violently Happy") and it's a bit noisier, but if you liked the style of Debut you will probably like Post. The album starts strongly with the industrialized single "Army of Me" and moves to my favorite song "Hyper-ballad" (an ocean suicide fantasy in the vein of "Anchor Song" from Debut). In general the first half of the album is stronger than the second; the big band number "It's Oh So Quiet" is a blast. I've tried switching the order of the songs and I still find little that interests me in the latter part of Post. The bottom line: If you liked Debut, get Post. If you've never heard either one, listen to Debut first. (drk@leland.stanford.edu)

Anyway, I've been listening to Post, and find it quite enjoyable...perhaps the most wonderful thing is that it is so decidedly Björk! I certainly appreciate her uniqueness, and somewhat like the 2nd half better than the first—"Cover Me", "Headphones", "Isobel", all really cool. I can't help being honored to be allowed to glimpse into the "private universes" of so many vibrant members of our species via their music.... It is, like Debut, very electronic / synthesized, but has some interesting rhythms nonetheless (I know how hard it is to get subtle syncopations and stuff in "off-the-shelf" rhythm modules). Looking at the liner notes, a few of the songs appear to be "keyboards and programming", but many have various other instruments and percussion thrown in (harpsichord, orchestra, brass, hammer dulcimer, percussion). (rholmes@CS.Stanford.EDU)

I think Post is brilliant. There's not one second of the disc I dislike. The direction is not entirely new for Björk (that is, if you've been following her career), but it is quite different from Debut. "Hyper-ballad" is about as close as she gets to "Violently Happy," and it's actually not very close. "Enjoy" has a much stronger bite than anything on Debut. And "Possibly Maybe" is a very dirty song, in a very subtle way. "Headphones" is experimental, to be sure, but it's also a terrific album closer. Post is actually more than I'd hoped it would be (and that doesn't happen for me very often). It was the first album released in 1995 that didn't disappoint me in some way or other. (I_SW@zis.ziff.com)

It's admirable that the album Björk created to follow up the success of Debut is such a strange, twisted, and downright uncommercial piece of work. Post is most accurately described as the anti-Debut, the 5am after the gold dust and cocktails of the night before. But the kind of 5am where, unable to sleep, you start to think thoughts that couldn't possibly come to life during the day. This album may not have been recorded at 5am, but it sounds for all the world as if it was.
     Opener and first single "Army Of Me" should give you an idea what to expect— and beware, it's the most commercial thing here, and the only track that's even remotely dance-friendly. The first time you hear it, all you can make out is the most obnoxious bass line in the history of music duelling with drums so huge you'd swear they resurrected John Bonham for a quick guest spot. The song itself is there, but you'll have to dig to find it; it's obnoxious, it's musically incorrect, and it's brilliant. As is the track immediately following—"Hyper-ballad" could well be the first meeting of jazz and techno, a consummately Björk scattered pop song with the most unlikely of arrangements. Shuffle drums give way to Orbital-inspired technology loops and an orchestra quietly playing in the background while someone retunes an old analogue synth. This is the sort of song the Pet Shop Boys have been trying to do for years. "The Modern Things" is no less unconventional, and it's about now that you start to realise that whatever else awaits you on this album, it's probably not going to be very normal. It's as if Björk along with her co-producers Nellee Hooper, Graham Massey and Tricky set out to deliberately record an album that broke every recording rule while still somehow sounding aurally delectable. From the stuck record at the end of "The Modern Things" you're treated to the Broadway cabaret antics of the Björk Big Band on "It's Oh So Quiet". Don't get used to that too quickly, though, because it's followed by the first Tricky collaboration "Enjoy", which is as industrial as they come but unfortunately this time also a song without a tune to speak of. "You've Been Flirting Again" is a brief journey to 40s cinema that serves a far greater purpose, as a lead-in to the phenomenal Isobel. The rhythm track from the last album's "Human Behaviour" lives in here, but so does a full orchestra and one of those addictive hooks that are unique to Björk. It's a fun, subtly stompy pop song until the chorus, when suddenly it's the theme from The Onedin Line on acid. After that, anything is going to be a bit of a let-down, and "Possibly Maybe" doesn't quite cut it in the song department despite a warm (but still strange) arrangement. "I Miss You" production-wise sounds like a storming techno track played through a low-budget PC sound card with a MIDI problem, and that's fine. Then it turns briefly into a 1984 Hunters And Collectors track, and then you understand. This isn't supposed to make sense. Understanding that helps a lot with this album, and especially with the closing two tracks, Cover Me and the bizarrely appealing Headphones.If it's dance music you want, you're in the wrong place here. But if you been missing Björk's journeys to Planet Strange, you'll be very happy to know that she is most assuredly back. This time, though, she's got a nice big public to play with. (ahoran@ozemail.com.au)

An album I love every minute of. (gordodo@optonline.net)


Telegram

Release info:

1996—Elektra/Warner—61897-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended if you like Post and like remixes

Guest artists:

Remixes by Mark Bell at LFO, Brodsky Quartet, Richard Brown & Beaumont Hannant, Björk & Evelyn Glennie, Dobie, Eumir Deodata, Björk & Marcus Dravs, Dillinja, Graham Massey, Mika Vainio

Comments:

This one took a while to grow on me, but I really like it now. It is a collection of remixes and alternate takes of Post songs, along with one excellent B-side with percussionist Evelyn Glennie called "My Spine." Unlike most remixes, Björk actually re-recorded many of the vocals on the new versions, transforming some of the weaker songs on Post into new, dramatic pieces. Still, the Post versions should be heard first before listening to this one. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I would recommend it only if you're a real Björk fan. I love it, especially the 2 or 3 string versions of songs (and the version of "isobel" is wonderful), but it's just nowhere near the greatness of Post. If you've purchased any of her singles with variations of Post songs on them, and really like them, then you'll love it. (bye@humnet.ucla.edu)


homogenic

Release info:

1997—Elektra—62061-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended if you like Björk's other work

Group members:

Björk

Guest artists:

Mark Bell—programming, drum programming
Markus Dravs—programming, drum programming
Richard Brown—programming
Marius de Vries—programming
Howie B—programming
Trevor Morais—electronic drumkit
Guy Sigsworth—clavichord, pipe organ
Yasuhiro "Coba" Kobayashi—accordion
Alasdair Malloy—glass harmonica

Produced by:

Björk and Mark Bell, also Guy Sigsworth, Howie B.

Comments:

I think this may become my favourite Björk album—it combines what I like best about her musical style: great use of her voice and intensely emotional tunes to match it. It's mysterious and wonderful. Haunting tunes.Less pop and more strangeness and more stylistically consistent as an album than her earlier albums but still dancey. (Neile)

this is brilliant. better than Post (which i didn't find all that interesting anyway). i thought Homogenic was EXCELLENT and groundbreaking in its use of electronic matched with symphonic strings and song structure. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Björk gets serious, and ever so beautifully. Melody and dissonance perfectly intertwine to make the best album of hers so far. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

Thus far, I just can't get into Homogenic. I think both Debut and Post are classics, but Homogenic is doing nothing for me. There are a couple of really great songs like "Joga" and "Bachelorette," which combine dramatic orchestration with electronic beats to wonderful effect. But most of the other songs are sorely lacking any melody and are often accompanied by very minimal (and often annoying) beats. And, as much as I love weird vocalizations, the caterwauling Björk does toward the end of "Pluto" borders on the unlistenable. But I love Björk and often have highly negative reactions to "difficult" albums on the first couple of listens. So, I'm continuing to play Homogenic in hopes of one day appreciating it. But I doubt I will ever rank it up there with Debut and Post. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I am now listening to the new Björk album, Homogenic. I bought it today and haven't decided if I really like it. It sounds more techno than the previous ones but her voice has never sounded better in my opinion. My intuition is that it will grow on me really fast but that it lacks the depth of Post. Anyway, it is typical Björk so if you liked the previous ones you can go for it. (rlovejoy@comcast.net)

I think I may like it better in general than her earlier albums. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

Björk has that special talent that makes her music a must-hear. While it is nice to see that young Björk is alive and well, this album at times is just a tad, well, too alive for these old ears. :) A little overdone on the noise machines, but the majority of the album more than makes up for the parts that I can't listen to all the way through sometimes. (alundra@netos.com)

Debut and Post remain my favorites. Björk has energy in Homogenic but I just don't think this is her best work.... The songs didn't snag my attention the way those on Debut and Post did. And The Sugarcubes are always fun to go back and listen to everyone once in awhile. i just think Björk is best when i can dance to her. (laverick@leland.Stanford.EDU)


Selmasongs

Release info:

2000—Elektra—CD 62533

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Björk—performance and arrangements on tracks 2-7, celesta, vocal editing

Guest artists:

Vincent Mendoza—orchestration, conducting, and arrangements on all tracks
Per Streit and Ad Stoop—location sounds
Mark Bell, Valgeir Sigurdsson—programming
Damian Taylor—celesta processing
Guy Sigsworth—celesta, arrangement on track 3
Catherine Deneuve—performance on track 2
Thom Yorke—performance on track 3
Siobhan Fallon—performance on track 6

Produced by:

Björk and Mark Bell

Comments:

This is the soundtrack recording for the movie Björk appears in, Dancer In The Dark.

It reminds me very much of Homogenic, with Björk returning to the contrast between heavy electronic beats and strings. In fact, "Scatterheart" sounds like an outtake from that album. I think the contrast is more subtle on Selmasongs, though, which to me is a good thing since I found Homogenic sort of off-putting at times.
     "I've Seen It All," the duet with Thom Yorke, is great. But I think my two favorites right now are "107 Steps" and "New World," both of which combine the sound of traditional musicals with Björk's unique melodies in a way that's slightly less showy than a song like "In the Musicals." Overall, I'm surprised how much I like Selmasongs. I was a bit dubious, but it's a solid Björk album (or maybe EP since there are only 7 songs, one of which is an instrumental). Plus, it's worth picking up for the sheer oddity of a duet between Björk and Catherine Deneuve. I would never have dreamed of *that* pairing. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

Though it's a soundtrack, it's definitely Björk. (Well, the overture track is definitely a generic overture track). "I've Seen It All" especially could be something off Homogenic. So I would say it's definitely worth getting for Björk fans. It's unlikely it will be anyone's favourite Björk album but it's far more than just a soundtrack, too. (Neile)


Vespertine

Release info:

2001—Elektra—CD62653

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Björk—vocals, bassline, choir arrangement, harp arrangement, music box arrangement, string arrangement, programming, beat programming, vocal editing

Guest artists:

Thomas Knak, Matthew Herbert, Marius de Vries, Martin Console—programming
Guy Sigsworth—programming, beat programming, choir arrangement, clavichord and clavichord arrangement, celeste and celeste arrangement
Vince Mendoza—choir arrangement, string arrangement, orchestration
Valgeir Sigurdsson, Jake Davies, Damian Taylor, Matmos—programming, beat programming
Zeena Parkins—harp and harp arrangement
Caryl Thomas—harp
Jack Perron—adaptation to music box

Produced by:

Björk, Thomas Knak, Martin Console

Comments:

In which the icelandic enchantress makes a wintry, but intimate new album. Her voice has seldom been stranger or more expressive, her melodies are evasive but beautiful. The single is hardly a hit but haunts the mind anyhow. Stellar stuff. On my list for the best of 2001. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

tasty. seemed somewhat subdued. (JoAnn Whetsell)

i found it very moody and subdued. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

An incredibly wonderful album. She just gets better and better. The stuff of obsession, and definitely one of the best albums of the year. (Neile)

I absolutely love Vespertine. It's my favorite Björk album so far. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Björk's full-length releases have done less than nothing for me since Debut, but this is absolutely wonderful. Her otherworldly voice shimmers over a soundscape that manages to be utterly of Iceland and from a different planet all at once. Don Keller wondered if she is truly a "21st century artist", and I would have to say yes. There are very few musicians out there now who are as consistently and successfully innovative as Björk. (meth@smoe.org)


Family Tree: A Taxonomy of Songs

Release info:

2002—Elektra—62815-2

Availability:

Limited edition

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Björk fans

Comments:

This is a limited-edition compilation that came out at the same time as the Greatest Hits. It contains a "greatest hits" as selection by Björk herself (as opposed to the one selected by fans) and five 3" EPs. This is a treasure chest for the Björk fan. The EPs are 2 called "Roots", 1 "Beats" EP, and 2 "Strings". The Roots EPs include a couple of Björk's early Icelandic songs, a Kukl song, two Sugarcubes songs, and a range of others, encompassing what Björk calls "songs representing some of the biggest leaps and discoveries in [her] harmonic development from the age of fiteen until now". The Beats EP is 4 tracks of beat-powered songs, which Björk calls "our craving for modern times...merging my voice with foreign electronic beats". The Strings EPs include soulful versions of Björk singing with strongs by the Brodsky Quartet that Björk says "enabled [her] to unite [her] musical universe with the academic one". While the extras are not as terrific as her albums, they are well worth exploring, and Björk fans will love the range of work and performances here. (Neile)

Livebox

Release info:

2003—One Little Indian—OLI 355

Availability:

Wide on release

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Björk fans

Produced by:

Björk

Comments:

Though each of the four concert discs is also available separately, the box set of them was released first, and includes not only the four discs, but also a booklet with an extensive interview with Björk about touring, and a bonus 5-song DVD of live material from concerts and TV. The four concert discs are arranged to create live versions of the albums Debut (from her MTV Unplugged performance), Post From a 1997 and one track from a live TV performance), Homogenic (recorded in variuos places in 1997 and 1998), and Vespertine (from the Vespertine World Tour, in 2001). Highly, highly recommended for all Björk fans. (Neile)

Medúlla

Release info:

2004—Atlantic—62981-2

Availability:

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Björk—vocals, bass line, bass synth, programming, piano

Guest artists:

Tagaq, Mike Patton, Gregory Purnhagen, Robert Wyatt, The Icelandic Choir, the London Choir—vocals, sounds
Rahzel, Shlomo, Dokaka—beats
Valgeir Sigursson, Mark Bell, Little Miss Specta, Matmos, Olivier Alary, Jake Davies—programming
Peter Van Hooke—gong
Nico Nuhly—piano

Produced by:

Björk

Comments:

I need to spend much quality time with this one in a dark, quiet room with good headphones on. I can tell this record will reveal much coolness that way for a very long time to come. I'm addicted to Medúlla, even as I realize that I enjoy listening to Vespertine more. What's up with that?? (meth@smoe.org)

Interesting. I've been through Medúlla a few times but last week I swapped it for Homogenic in my CD player and have been enjoying that quite a bit. Medúlla is brilliant, but it has that Laurie Anderson "difficult listening hour" feel to it and some annoying moments (like that part where Björk sounds like she's coughing up a hairball or something). (meth@smoe.org)

Without a doubt my favourite CD of 2004. I really enjoy Medúlla. When we first got it we listened to it at least once a day for about a month. We still play it often, and I love it every time. It's so playful. Besides, Jim swears that little mewing sound on the last song is her calling my name, so I haven't gotten annoyed by that yet. (Neile)

Medieval, modern, dreamy, otherworldly, organic, eudamonia, manic, orchestral, majestic, weird, alien, mythic, avant-garde, Liz Fraser, Lisa Gerrard, Laurie Anderson, Meredith Monk, Scandavian, techno, angelic, womb, beautiful, silly.
     Other words, pure Björk.
     Isn't she an ecto-goddess yet? (ethereal_lad@livejournal.com)

One of the best of 2004. (thecritics@earthlink.net)


The Music from Drawing Restraint 9

Release info:

2005—One Little Indian—OLI459

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended only for fans of experimental music, soundtracks, and/or Björk only

Group members:

Björk—programming, vocals, arrangements, harp

Guest artists:

Will Oldham—vocal (1)
Jónas Sen—celeste (1,10)
Zeena Parkins—harp (1,6,10)
Valgeir Sigurðsson—programming (1,3,7,10), percussion (5), keyboards (7)
Mayumi Miyata—sho (2,6,11)
Tagaq—throat singing (2)
Guðrún Óskarsdóttir—harpsichord (3)
Samuel Solomon—crotales (3,10), glockenspiel (3)
Mark Bell—beat programming (3)
Akira Rabelais—piano treatments (4)
Leila—programming (8)
Shiro Nomura—Noh score, voice performance (9)
Shonosuke Okura—percussion, chanting (9,10)

Produced by:

Björk (track 3 Björk, Mark Bell, Valgeir Sigurðsson)

Comments:

While I love some of the actual music on this, the vocals (once even when they're Björk's!) are consistently annoying. I like "Ambergris March" (there aren't any vocals on it) and "Storm" and "Cetacea" (both of which have some Björk vocals) but other than those I find this unlistenable. (Neile)

Volta

Release info:

2007—Atlantic Records—135868-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Björk—vocals, programming, editing, brass arrangements, synth bass, clavichord, sine bass

Guest artists:

Timbaland—keyboards and beats (1, 4); triggering pre-recorded percussion loop (8)
Nate Dangerhands—keyboards (1, 4); beats (1, 4, 9); bass drums (8); synths and programming (9)
Pete Davis—programming (1, 4)
Konono n*1—electric likembes
Chris Corsano—drum kit (1); percussion (5)
Damian Taylor—programming, editing, engineering; vocal processing and additional beats (1); Morse code (2); drops (4); orchestral beats (6); additional vocal treatments (7)
Mark Bell—beats (2, 5); keyboards (5); electronic beats (6); clavichord treatments (10)
Sylvia Hlynsdóttir, Ása Berglind Hjálmarsdóttir, Dröfn Helgadóttir, Valdís Porkelsdóttir, Karen J. Sturlaugsson, Björk Níelsdóttir, Sigrún Jónsdóttir, Harpa Jóhannsdóttir, Vilborg Jónsdóttir, Bergrún Snœbjörnsdóttir, Erla Axelsdóttir, Sœrún Pálmadóttir, Lilja Valdimarsdóttir, Brynja Guomundsdóttir—brass (2, 5)
Antony—vocals (3, 10)
Eiríkur Örn Pálsson, Einar Jónsson, Ásgeir H. Steingrómsson, Sigurour Porbergsson, Oddur Björnsson, David Bobroff, Joseph Ognibene, Emil Frilfinnsson, Roine Hultgren—brass (3)
Brian Chippendale—drums (3)
Min Xiao-Fen—pípá (5)
Nico Muhly—brass arrangement adaptation and conducting (7)
Sharon Moe, Susan Panny, Amber Chisholm-Lane, Chad Yarborough, Theo Primis, Robert Jost, Christopher Costanzi—horns (7)
Toumani Diabate—kora (8)
Jonas Sen—clavichord (10)

Produced by:

Timbaland (1, 4); Björk (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10); Danja (1, 4); Damian Taylor (6); Mark Bell (9)

Comments:

I'm loving this album. The opening track and first single "Earth Intruders" with its stomping beats is a lot of fun, but the rest of the album isn't really like that. There are a lot of beats all over the album, but also a lot of moody and interesting brass arrangements. It's not as "world"ly as I thought it would be from reviews, but Toumani Diabate's kora is nicely used on one track. It's a very rich album; there's so much to discover on repeat listens. Like the vocal soundscapes Björk has been exploring on her last few albums thrown into a new world. (JoAnn Whetsell)

There actually aren't any tracks on Volta that I dislike, and I think parts of it are really wild and inventive and awesome. I'm especially fond of the songs with "Antony" from Antony and the Johnsons.
     It's not a year-end lister for me because it swings too spastically between up-tempo and down, and I prefer albums that arc.
     Also... And maybe this is the pretentious elitist in me, but I find after a series of really sculpted, high-concept, high-art recordings by Björk (Medúlla, the Matthew Barney score, etc.), I find it hard to take a less deliberate, less artful project as seriously. (timjy@sbcglobal.net)

Not as interesting as I hoped. While it's not a bad album, it's just that Björk is among my favourite artists and has shown in previous albums how much more interesting she can be. I get a huge kick out of "Earth Intruders", but in all honesty can't be bothered to play the rest of this album. Meh. It's just not my thing. I still anxiously await whatever she'll do next. (Neile)

The packaging is truly awful. The sticker is just asking to be ripped and/or get dirty and no longer stick. I can't imagine why they would do that. That being said, I really like the album. As a graphic designer, I find it sort of annoying that a designer would sacrifice so much usability for a design that, quite frankly, isn't that great. (jonwesleyhuff@gmail.com)

One of my favorites of 2007. (gordoja@optonline.net)

A disappointment. This last, I think has more to me just falling out of tune with her "elf caught in a steam press" style vocals. (adamk@zoom.co.uk)


Voltaic: Songs From the Volta Tour Performed Live at Olympic Studios

Release info:

2009—Nonesuch—519616-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Björk Gudmundsdóttir—vocals

Guest artists:

Mark Bell—beats and electronics
Damian Taylor—electronics, synthesizers, reactable
Jönas Sen—keyboards
Chris Corsano—drums, percussion
Saerún Ösk Pálmadöttir, Bergún Snæb Jörnsdöttir, Erla Axelsdöttir—French horn
Sylvia Hlynsdöttir, Björk Níelsdöttir, Valdís Porkelsdöttir—trumpet
Harpa Jöhannsdöttir, Sigrún Kristbjörg Jönsdöttir, Sigrún Jönsdöttir—trombone
Brynja Gudmundsdöttir—tuba

Comments:

I really enjoy this album, especially the way the sounds of Volta influence older tracks like "Hunter" and "Army of Me." (JoAnn Whetsell)

Biophilia

Release info:

2011—Nonesuch Records

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Björk—vocals, choir arrangement, drum programming, programming

Guest artists:

Zeena Parkins, Shelley Burgon, Sara Cutler, Carol Emanuel—harp
Pablo Diaz-Reixa—drum progamming
Damian Taylor—drum progamming, progamming
Valdis Þorkelsdóttir, Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir—trumpets
Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, Erla Axelsdóttir, Særun Ósk Pálmadóttir, Ilija Valdimarsdóttir—French horns
Harpa Jóhannsdóttir, Sigrún Jónsdóttir, Li Ming Yeung, Jessica Buzbee—trombones
Brynja Guδmundsdóttir—tuba
Arnheiδur Eiriksdóttir, Ásdis Björg Gestsdóttir, Ásdis Eva Ólafsdóttir, Á Ægisdóttir, Auδur Albertsdóttir, Bergljót Rfnar Karlsdóttir, Drifa Öruarsdóttir, Elin Edda Sigurδardóttir, Erla Maria Markúsdóttir, Erla Rún Guδmundsdóttir, Ester Auδunsdóttir, Eygló Höskuldsdóttir Viborg, Fifa Jónsdóttir, Gigja Gylfadóttir, Gigja Haraldsdóttir, Guδrun M. Sigurdbergsdóttir, Jóna G. Kolbrúnardóttir, Kristin Anna Guδmundsdóttir, Kristin Einarsdóttir Mätyla, Kristin Sueinsdóttir, Sigrún Ósk Jóhannesdóttir, Sigureborg, Sküladóttir Kaldal, Uigdis Sigurδardóttir, Unnur Sigurδardóttir—choir

Produced by:

Björk

Comments:

My reaction is mixed. Overall, I think it's a good album. I love parts of it and think they're gorgeous, like "Crystalline," but other parts of it feel shapeless to me. These parts lose me (sometimes it's the didactic lyrics that push it this way). For example, I love the beginning of the album—the first four tracks—but she loses me with "Dark Matter" and "Hollow" and "Mutual Core." I start to appreciate what she's doing more again with "Virus," "Sacrifice," and "Solstice." So, yes, a very mixed bag for me. When it's good it's very, very good, though, and well worth having and listening to for those tracks along. Those more interested in less song-like structures will probably appreciate the entirety of the album more than I do. (Neile)

I really like "Crystalline" and "Náttúra" but found the rest of the album quite boring. (JoAnn Whetsell)

One of the best albums of the year. (stjarnell@yahoo.com, gordodo@optonline.net)


Further info:

the best single you can ever get is the "joga" single. it has the best björk song ever, called 'so broken.' (sketches@earthlink.net)

i don't buy björk singles because they're always $11.99 imports with 2 songs. i do however enjoy the "venus as a boy" single which has remixes and other songs, which i got for $5.99 (new too!) and the "bachelorette" single, which was expensive, but has that wonderful song with harpsichord. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Björk has appear on many compilations and soundtracks, and there are frequently b-sides on her singles, though usually her singles are full of remixes.

She also appeared in the movie Dancer In The Dark, and won the award for best actress at Cannes in 2000 for her performance, and previously appeared in the movie, The Juniper Tree.

She also has several DVDs out of her wonderfully creative videos and of live concerts. These are all highly recommended for the Björk fan.


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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