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Monday, November 21, 2011

Björk -- Vespertine


How about a rant instead of a review?
Björk's Vespertine is a perfect album that's received terrible reviews. I don't mean that the scores or grades it received were poor. On the contrary, Vespertine was one of the most positively received albums of 2001. But just about every review written about it either just took quotes from Björk herself about the album, and made that the review, or overgeneralized so heavily that the descriptions of the album weren't even close to accurate. The general consensus of these reviews is that Vespertine is about Björk staying in her house and whispering. And yes, sometimes she whispers--but sometimes she sings louder than ever. And yes, she sings a little bit about being inside--but most of those songs are about her being in her bedroom having sex, so does that really count? And really, if anything, isn't this album about the tension between staying insular and (at points literally and graphically) letting somebody in? Stressing about the consequences of opening yourself to the world versus just relaxing and taking the day as it comes?
There's also the sentiment that this album is about intimate, small things--

Threading the glacier head, looking hard for moments of shine, from twilight to twilight...I tumble down on my knees, fill the mouth with snow, the way it melts, I wish to melt into you That actually sounds pretty epic to me. Also, she doesn't whisper these lines, but anyway. Those choirs sound pretty loud, too. And the percussion is SOMEONE MARCHING THROUGH SNOW.
Anyway, I think Vespertine is obviously a very personal album for Björk, but it's also a very easy album in which to lose yourself. Like its predecessor, Homogenic, it is a musical journey from start to finish. There is certainly a kind of darkness to be found within as well, especially toward the end--sometimes letting people in doesn't always work. "An Echo, a Stain" is actually pretty frightening, and "Harm of Will" is beautifully disturbing.
So to conclude my badly organized rantings, Vespertine is a beautiful, complex album. It's not the type of thing that can be summed up by buzzwords and generalizations. As you would expect, considering the artist, it's a complete original, something that has to be experienced to be interpreted, not something that can be accurately described. And that's it.

RANDOM THANK YOU FOR THIS REVIEW: Thanks to the DJ's at KLSU the semester this came out (and the first that I DJ'd!) for playing this ad naseum and gushing about it in non-traditional, excited terminology, while I watched the winter sunset from my car in the parking lot of the abandoned Delchamps next to my apartment because I didn't want to go home. One more for the road?

2001 Elektra
1. Hidden Place 5:28
2. Cocoon 4:28
3. It's Not Up to You 5:08
4. Undo 5:38
5. Pagan Poetry 5:14
6. Frosti 1:41
7. Aurora 4:39
8. An Echo, A Stain 4:04
9. Sun in My Mouth 2:40
10. Heirloom 5:12
11. Harm of Will 4:36
12. Unison 6:45

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