Björk

Bjork's Official Website!

By Katherine Rodgers

WHEN: 1977-1992 (various bands), 1993-present (solo)

CULPRITS: Björk Guðmundsdóttir (Icelander, avant-garde singer-songwriter, composer, musician, actress and all-round nutter)

ALBUMS: Debut (1993); Post (1995); Homogenic (1997); Vespertine (2001); Medúlla (2004); Volta (2007)

HOW: I came across Björk at the tender age of 13, on a family holiday to Dingle (aka the middle of nowhere, Ireland). We were painfully bored, and decided to listen to a live CD — titled something like “Best Live Acts of All Time” — that had come free with a Sunday paper. The first track was a live version of possibly Björk’s finest moment, “Jóga“, from the beautiful, barbed Homogenic — and on this version the rocky, volatile beats of the original had been stripped away, leaving Björk singing alone, backed only by a single, mournful violin. Her voice filled the car; at first it was child-like and cracked, but, as the violin grew more insistent, it erupted into something powerful, full, piercing and beautiful. From that moment on, I was captivated. The rest of the summer was spent immersed in her music — I downloaded everything I could find, in a variety of legal and not so legal methods. I spent most of my time on my own in the garden, plugged into my headphones, devouring Björk’s back collection — especially the majestic Homogenic, which still remains my favourite album of all time. Years later, I am still enthralled to this otherworldly creature.

WHY: Björk is a musical chameleon — insistently inventive, she sheds her skin every album, spanning every genre and classification, and at the same time, defying them all, to create a sound that is a very rare thing — completely and utterly unique. Her music is almost primitive, based on the rawest of human emotions — anger, fear, happiness, joy — and, at the same time, otherworldly and surreal. Top that off with a voice that is, although an acquired taste, powerful and startlingly pure — and you have an incomparable, iconic individual that has been pushing the public’s boundaries her whole career, and who will never stop.

SONGS: Björk is a highly multifaceted individual and I’ve tried to reflect this in my song choices, as well as showing the power and odd beauty of Björk’s pipes. I decided to launch you straight into Björk at her most dramatic with the epic “Play Dead“. There is nothing understated about this song; her roaring vocals and swelling strings create a sound that is almost apocalyptic, but this song features some highly impressive vocal acrobatics from Björk — notice how quickly her voice can change from banshee shriek to guttural snort. Next, I’ve decided to calm it down with the minimalist “Hunter“, which features Björk chanting tribal lyrics — her odd, Icelandic accent shining through — over bleeping electronics, queasy strings, and tribal drums. The best moment comes at 1:36, where the song reaches its climax: Björk’s poignant lyric “I thought I could organize freedom/ How Scandinavian of me!” breaking through the eerie sterility of the song.

The next two songs are highlights from 1995’s Post — the lovelorn “Hyperballad” and the dynamic “Army of Me” — featuring Björk riling against dependence, and demonstrating both her soft side and volatile side.

Then, I’ve decided to include a song from a band Björk was in previous to going solo: punk-influenced The Sugarcubes. This song — with its creepy, child-like lyrics, wailing horns and more of Björk’s odd, guttural noises — is arguably the oddest thing she’s ever done, and possibly the most brilliant. This was chosen as number one on the late, great John Peel’s Festive Fifty.

On this mixtape I’ve decided to omit some of Björk’s more commercial tracks — such as “It’s Oh So Quiet“, which everyone has probably already heard, and the odd, samba-influenced “I Miss You” (although it’s music video, created by the makers of Ren & Stimpy, is essential viewing for any potential Björk fan!) — in favour of more obscure Björk tracks, like her gorgeous cover of Joni Mitchell’s “The Boho Dance” (which, in my view, far surpasses the original), and the B-Side to Vespertine‘s whispery “Hidden Place“, “Generous Palmstroke“, which features Zeena Parkins playing spindly, delicate harp.

Finally, I’ve decided to end it on the anthemic “All is Full of Love“, which is a masterpiece in all its simplicity.

LINK: Click on the list below to see the 80MFL iMix, where you can listen to samples, download what sounds good, or get the whole thing!

Click the list for our Bjork iMix

___________________________________

Katherine Rodgers is a secondary school student from Northern Ireland.

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~ by Patrick Gosnell on September 3, 2009.

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