March 26, 2013
137) Björk – Jóga (Homogenic) (1997)
I’ve been struggling with this one for weeks now. I find Björk’s music too intense to revisit frequently, but when I do I always find it profound, meaningful, and exotic. Her vocal dexterity is magnificent, truly radiating the grandeur of the pop music she makes. And each track seems to pull from diverse elements, whether Baroque composition or traditional Icelandic folk. While traveling the well-worn pop tropes of love (falling in and out) and relationships, Björk manages to find keen, unique insights nonetheless (whether that’s in the quirky intimacy of ”Hyperballad” or the erotic preparation of ”Pagan Poetry“). I find “Unravel” to be the most unequivocally beautiful song and “I’ve Seen It All” the most heartbreaking and moving. I think “Jóga” is the standard-bearer for her work, though, because it features her most impressive vocal work,* and it combines some of the best of the electronic production with traditional compositional elements.** It is missing some of that majesty (in spades in early 90′s club banger “Big Time Sensuality” and angry fist-pumper “Army Of Me“).*** And it’s hard to think of Björk in terms of her purely musical output when so much amazing collaboration has gone into her edgy and gorgeous music vidoes (in addition to those songs already mentioned, I’d point to “Bachelorette,” “All Is Full Of Love,” ”Human Behaviour,” among others.) She’s eccentric and inscrutable at times, but has made so much interesting, beautiful, and powerful music.****
* I find the vocals on Medúlla to be incredibly impressive (see, e.g., “Pleasure Is All Mine,” ”Show me Forgiveness,” and “Who Is It?“) but in a far more technical, academic respect. The songs seem to be missing some of the raw emotion and aesthetic of her earlier works.
** I am also partial to Ben Gibbard’s lovely cover.
*** Of course, no song in her oeuvre is going to be totally exemplary when she dabbles in so many genres and tones, from the utterly subdued “Possibly Maybe” — which I can’t hear without recalling VH1′s late night theme for “Insomniac Music Theater” — to the musical theater of “It’s Oh So Quiet” to the haunting “Hunter” to the fragile, sincere “Hidden Place” to those including all manner of instrumentation (“Crystalline“) or audio effects (“Earth Intruders“).
**** Unrelated, but the Björk stalker story is a totally crazy and compelling look into celebrity obsession.*****
***** And after that depressing note, watch this: