Why You Should Listen To: Björk’s Post
October 9, 2018
Welcome to the weekly-series “Why You Should Listen to”, where we will discuss great albums worth every music lover’s attention. In today’s society, while we do have all the possible access to everything and anything on the Internet, it can often happen for us to miss some music we would love to hear. That’s why we will try to help you discover some awesome music in this series of articles. The focus will mostly be on studio albums, be it classics or underrated gems and records that have been forgotten by time. Our focus will also stretch out across the world, from the USA and UK to the African continent, Latin America and even the Balkans. The first in the series is Björk’s fantastic sophomore album “Post”. Enjoy!
The Icelandic singer and producer Björk Guðmundsdóttir, who is iconic in the underground and avant-garde music scene, is probably one of the few artists who has reached both critical acclaim and mainstream success. Most of us could agree that she is the type of artist you either “get” or “notget” (reference intended). Her music output over her long career has been nothing but vast and inventive. From an early age, she has been exposed to music via her classical piano and flute classes, and at 12 she had already released her first self-titled album. She was seen as a sort of wunderkind, a fact that her family wanted to use from this early age to their benefit, but Björk would only later reach that targeted level of success. After years of singing in many underground projects such as Spit and Snot, Exodus, JAM80, Tappi Tikarrass, Kukl and the cult Icelandic band The Sugarcubes.
Needless to say, the avant-garde pop queen has been busy with music throughout her life. We strongly recommend listening to her pre-solo work, especially The Sugarcubes, one of the rare instances you’ll hear Björk’s iconic voice paired with typical rock band instrumentation. However, she decided to distance herself from that sound in 1992 when she moved to London in pursuit of a new sound and a proper debut solo album. After being exposed to the sounds of house music, techno and trip-hop and meeting Nellee Hooper, she released her proper fantastic debut album, ironically titled “Debut”. Her new experimental blend of pop, techno, experimental and traditional Icelandic music would start to develop here. Her next album “Post” however, is when she really hit the ball out of the park artistically.
“Post” is a truly interesting listen, not just because of the myriad of influences and sounds, but also because of the stellar songwriting and melodies. The most known two tracks off this album are most definitely “Army of Me” and the cover of an old jazz song “It’s Oh So Quiet”, which Björk quickly made her own. The screams and overall vocal delivery on that song is a show of Björk’s eccentric and lovable personality. Not to mention the iconic music video paired up with the song. While her albums are usually coherent in sound and theme, “Post” sounds more like a fantastic collection of songs, that, despite their differences, gel together perfectly across its runtime. “Army of Me” is the industrial banger that kicks off this masterpiece of an album with a dark, driving synthbass, punchy drums and Björk’s angry delivery of the lyrics that deal with a relative of hers stagnating in life and pestering her for help to get his shit together. This aggressive side of Björk was not very present on “Debut”, so to have this as the opener on “Post” must have been a surprise for first-time listeners.
The song that follows is called “Hyperballad”. Now this, this is truly a musical masterpiece, and for a variety of reasons. Not only is this one of her most classic songs, but is truly timeless and genreless. It is a song with so much power and beauty at the same time, the lyrics of which talk about a situation in which Björk and her lover live on a mountain. One morning she wakes up before him, and pushes random things off and watches them fall, reminding her that life is anything but safe and certain. She then blasts into a super-emotive chorus about how, despite this creeping feeling of uncertainty, she feels safe in her lover’s presence. A truly honest and one-of-a-kind love song. If you listen to nothing off this album, at least give this one a shot.
The song “Isobel” is another powerful, bustling song that combines more traditional instrumentation with Björk’s techno-tinged sound. It was composed by her on a portable Casio keyboard after inventing the melody on a Christmas visit to Iceland. She worked hard on the song, inventing the character of Isobel with the help of Icelandic poet Sjón. It’s a track about the clash of nature and modern civilization, this duality originating from Björk’s early life spent in nature and moving to big cities. Thus, Isobel is portrayed as a second Björk on the single cover art for this song. The sounds coming from the speakers when listening to this put you in a sort-of dark forest and you feeling a strong spirit approaching you, but you are not sure if it’s welcoming or hostile.
One of the most saddest songs I’ve heard in the longest time lands on this album under the title “Possibly Maybe”. It is such a chilling ballad about a break-up, it truly hits hard. It is quite mellow with a simplistic, bassy melody that echoes as Björk reminisces about a break-up with Stephane Sednaoui. Phones ringing in the background and Björk’s beautiful vocal harmonies in the chorus truly give this song its weight. “You’ve Been Flirting Again” is similarly dark-sounding, but a nice breather of a song in the constantly fluctuating tracklist. It is thematically about the playfulness of flirting and the game of push-pull with the person you’re attracted to. It’s a perfectly peaceful interlud between the hard-hitting mammoths that are “Enjoy” and “Isobel”.
Speaking of “Enjoy”, it is one of the heaviest songs on the album, with awesomely weird horn samples and Björk’s soaring vocal delivery. It seems to be about exploration with one’s senses, the ability of sensing things and dealing with what you feel, whether you like it or not. The message seems to be “just enjoy the sensations and explore them without fear”. “The Modern Things”, along with “Army of Me” is one of the first songs Björk created, even before “Debut”. These two songs, along with “Hyperballad” craft such a strong trifecta of intro tracks that will instantly hook you to this album and imprint it in your head and ears. “The Modern Things” combines English and Icelandic into a tune that deals with modernization of society, despite what has happened before. The modern things will always be on the horizon, meaning that humans will always continue to evolve their society, and she seems to be at peace with that.
“I Miss You” is another banger with tribal percussion and driving horn sections. It tackles the topic of knowing your perfect lover, despite meeting them. While the song itself is quite lovely, the animated music video (created by “Ren and Stimpy” creator John Kricfalusi) makes it even more special. “Cover Me” is the quieter moment of the album, dedicated to its co-producer Nellee Hooper, for helping Björk deliver not one, but two masterpieces to the world and leaving her fingerprints on music history. The closing track “Headphones”, co-produced by Björk’s ex Tricky, who is a trip-hop legend in his own right, is one of the most artistic moments on the album. If you want to get the most out of this beautiful song, you have to wear headphones. It is just that detailed and pretty, that it serves as a perfect finish to a near-perfect album.
This record, overall, is perfect for people who are open-minded and love groundbreaking music projects. Björk’s enchanting and unique voice may be the center of the album, but the instrumentation and lyrical themes keep this an amazing front-to-back listen. Sounds best in autumn or winter, especially at night. Hope you will enjoy it!