CLASSIC REVIEW: Björk, Post
Updated: Jan 9, 2022
Isolation is one of the most difficult states to capture in an interesting way through art. With a cast of characters and their relationships, the entertained masses get a more fleshed out sense of emotion, motives and passion. Removing that, the main character stands alone and must attempt to convey their solitary state in a way that is both relatable and narratively interesting. Björk is one of those artists that conceptually gives it her all, when she wants to convey something, lyrics themselves just won’t do. Her incredibly detailed production, costumes, vocal inflections, music videos — everything — is lined up perfectly so that she can tell us exactly how she’s feeling.
While Björk’s Debut is quite good, Post really felt like her coloring in that album’s emotional and instrumental palette. I mean just look at the album covers side by side, she first needed an outline and introduction of the Björk sound before gearing up toward her full potential on her sophomore record. While she portrays solitude as a depressive negative throughout the album, she also proves the power of what one person can do. “Army of Me” and “Hyperballad” feel like foils to each other and this very idea. The former kicks the record off with this despondent locrian bassline and rock ‘n’ roll drums reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks”, and sets Björk’s familial relationship drama against this epic alien sci-fi warscape. “You're on your own now, we won’t save you/You rescue squad, is too exhausted” sounds so cruel and monstrous, but in reality, the song is about her giving tough love to a deadbeat brother who wasn’t doing shit with his life. To relate to the “post” title of the album, Björk is not only over the sounds of Iceland, but post- all the bullshit she had to deal with back there as well.
“Hyperballad” feels slightly less girlbossy and cruel, still preaching self-sufficiency while also spinning a tale of self-harm and self-destruction. Overtop this misty, patient electronic waterfall of a beat, Björk slowly unravels her desire to jump off a cliff and kill herself. She has these thoughts before her lover awakens, feeling as though her intense isolation and sadness would burden them. The track is not only heartbreaking, but surprisingly danceable and symphonic, boasting a rich string section alongside techno trappings. The following two tracks, “The Modern Things” and “It’s Oh so Quiet”, focus more on displaying soaring vocals from Björk. The latter, a cover of a ‘50s Betty Hutton song, is one of the most explosive on the entire record. I-FUCKING-CONIC at this point. She fully switched the instrumentals to a robust orchestral arrangement, and it fits so well, especially when the chorus kicks in. She’s screaming her head off over lush strings, booming brass and crashing drums. She explores the calm and boring peace of being single, and juxtaposes this with the chaos of love. I love love LOVE the way the sound cracks the sky as soon as she talks about love. Björk is an alien being, so why the hell wouldn’t a break up make the world end?
The move from Iceland to England completely changed the sound of the album. UK garage, jungle and IDM all weave their way in, subtly or bluntly depending on the track. Just like Charli XCX, Caroline Polachek or any number of futuristic pop stars, Björk made a name for herself as being an adaptable personality who was willing to trust the more experimental tendencies of her collaborators. That’s how she yielded something as electronic and intense as “Enjoy” right next to a short, symphonic and optimistic cut like “You’ve Been Flirting Again”. “I Miss You” has that UK influence on full display, it’s polyrhythmic garage and IDM fusion mixes the breakbeats of 808 State with the jauntiness of Aphex Twin, all while still incorporating organic and jungle-like drum sounds and horns. It’s almost impossible to imagine how her and her producers were able to piece all of these elements together on one track.
“Isobel” is another great example of a track that does it all. She clearly loves old Hollywood noir and intrigue, but also needs her music to sound like giant raiders making their way across a desert heatwave. She really was an artist that had it all, and I can totally see the direct influence of these songs on conceptual songwriters like Grimes and Eartheater. Even though the more in-your-face moments of this album like “Army of Me” are what it’s most known for, I think the more low-key tracks are really what ties everything together so well. “Possibly Maybe”, like “It’s Oh so Quiet” begs the question, “is love worth all the stress?”. She goes from “As much as I enjoy solitude, I wouldn’t mind spending a little time with you” to “I’M EXHAUSTED!” within a few minutes. Her expressive voice embodied all the excitement, uncertainty, frustration and sadness that comes with new love. Leave it to someone for whom English is not their first language to wield the language and its inflections better than most English singers before or after her.
The record wraps with the lovely “Headphones”, a proto-ASMR masterpiece that uses tactile vocal sounds and delayed chimes to hypnotize the listener into a state of sleep. “I like this resonance, it elevates me” she sings, as do I Björk. The track is so meta, yet life affirming. I love that I’m listening to this on headphones, and as someone who genuinely has had my life saved by music on multiple occasions, I relate to her sentiments here. Without headphones, there would be no AntiArt. You know what, without Björk there would be no AntiArt because without her, we don’t get all these brave young people like 100 gecs, SOPHIE, Arca, etc. who needed someone like her to be the butt of the joke first. Björk’s music was so weird and ahead of its time that she was simultaneously mocked and obsessed over by the media. Shoutout to her for beating the shit out of that reporter in 1996 too, the year of my birth. A brutal action that brought my cynical ass into this world 🤪🤪🤪