Classic Album Revisited: Bjork – Post

Classic Album Revisited: Bjork - Post

In June of 1995 Bjork released Post the follow up to her trailblazing Debut. “Post” in many ways cemented Bjork’s legendary solo career, displaying that “Debut” was not a fluke but the introduction to a vibrant decades spanning solo career. “Post” built on the success of the first release producing even more purpose and popularity for this singular artist. “Post” if described in one word is eclectic, using an inculcation of IDM, Big Band, Trip Hop and Ambient mixed into a unique distillation that became Bjork’s calling card to the music world.

Bjork had co produced Debut mostly with Nellee Hooper, In pre-production for “Post” Hooper had suggested she should produce it herself. Bjork was not prepared to take that step but would elect to go with a more collaborative producing scheme. Bjork utilized the studio stylings of Hooper along with Tricky, renowned trip hop pioneer, Howie Bernstein and 808 State’s Graham Massey. Tricky was somewhat hesitant at first to produce, Bjork convinced Tricky to work on two tracks for the release and in trade provided two vocals for his album. The majority of “Post” was recorded at the legendary Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, where Bjork would wire the recording mics so that she could record on the beach. The less constricted environment in which it was recorded reflected Bjork’s mindspace.

She had gotten the monkey off her back with Debut shaking off obligations and compositional ideas from years back, and could now focus on the immediate. “Post” was due upon the end of the Bahaman recording sessions but Bjork asked more time, feeling the release needed more work. She called in semi retired Brazilian composer Eumir Deodato who contributed to Hyperballad, You’ve Been Flirting Again and Isobel. In addition the song I Miss You had more percussion added and Enjoy got a horn treatment from former Sugar Cube member Einar Orn Benediktsson. It was after these adjustments that Bjork was ready to unleash “Post” on the listening public.

“Post” produced six singles, Army of Me, Isobel, It’s Oh So Quiet, Hyperballad, Possibly Maybe and I Miss You. It was considered a commercial and critical success reaching number 2 on the charts in the UK and 32 on the US charts, was certified gold and eventually reached platinum. “Post” is considered by music critics to be one of the standout albums of the 90’s, and many consider it to be the quintessential Bjork release. In hindsight it is seen as the peak of her pop popularity before it (popularity) got lazy, and the release helped formed a trilogy with “Debut” as the beginning, “Post” as the middle and “Homogenic” as the final segment of the trio. Each displayed an iconoclast who retained popularity as each release careened through emotional extremes and sometimes esoteric genres.

“Post” reflected changes in Bjork’s life. The most pronounced change was Bjork having moved home base from Iceland to London. The release mirrored the urban fast pace life of the city she now called home. Her goal with the release was to integrate experimentation into popular music while using a wide emotional palette. The themes that repeat themselves throughout are; strength, instinct, and independence. Additionally the release was darker and more aggressive than “Debut”. It channeled the restlessness of the city but also displayed a fine balance between experimental whimsy and pop sensibilities. The album kicks off with one of my all time Bjork favorites Army Of Me. The back story of the song was that it was written with her brother in mind. She wanted him to get on with his life and deal with things. That message comes through loud and clear, “you’re alright there’s nothing wrong, self sufficiency please and get to work.” The sentiment in the lyrics could be heard coming from the mouth of any parent of a teenager and is a sort of rally cry. The bombastic fuzz fest that is the accompaniment makes for one funky and driving work with its phenomenal beat. It is a perfect song for taking control and kicking the blues.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26sP2WsA5cY

Hyperballad was inspired by a dream Bjork had about a person who hides their destructive nature from loved ones and releases that tension by throwing things off a cliff. Within the lyric is a discussion of the underlying frustrations of relationships that can drive a person mad. As the saying goes it isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it is the grain of sand in your shoes. The song is a glichy modern ballad with an apt dreamy ethereal feeling. It builds to an outstanding climax and converts the ballad into an improbably dance track. The song was totally in keeping with the off kilter pixie image that was Bjork’s persona at this point in her career. Modern Things blends an awesome jazz fusion vibe with techno and a heroic percussive beat. The surreal lyric proposes that all modern things have always existed;we just didn’t see them till it is time to recognise them. It also gives voice to fears about technology and how it has taken over our lives sometimes not for the better. The song is engagingly structured and enthralling.

It’s Is Oh So Quiet Is a cover of Betty Hutton’s 1951 cover of the original German song, “Und Jetzt Ist Still” by Hans Lang and Erich Meder. On display is the juxtapostioning of quiet to loud as Bjork performs one fantastic rendition of the song. It is filled with bombast made oh so much more explosive for the playful quiet parts. It is boundless energy and simply just fun as it demands you join in. It is also a song about being broadsided by falling in love which is a reoccurring topic for Bjork since Venus as a Boy, and Violently Happy appeared on “Debut”. One of the reasons this song was so big for Bjork is that it perfectly captured the audacious force of nature that is Bjork. It was the last song chosen to be released on “Post” and Bjork decided to go with it because it underlined the schizophrenic feel of the track list. Enjoy is a track that displays a dichotomy of opposites; wanting simplicity vs wanting complexity, being filled with fear and having no fear, I only want to look but I only want to touch, etc. The question becomes do we ever really figure out what we want? “Enjoy” Has a very modern feel with its processed violin effects and the fuzz bass as it blends effortlessly with world beats. In many ways it is in keeping with the off kilter avant guarde vibe of Bjork’s Sugarcube days and is a splendid dance track.

You’ve Been Flirting Again has always felt like a bit of a prelude to the epic Isobel. It is an evocative ballad filled with lush strings. It examines compliments and questions their true intent. “Isobel” then launches with its glorious full band rendition featuring stentorian horns and twists into a percussion fest; all the while projecting a primal, pagan and somewhat dark sound. It has this mythological aura and presents a woman central to the narrative who is isolated from modern life. “My name Isobel, married to myself, my love Isobel lives by herself.” The song was co-written with Icelandic poet Sjon and was their first collaboration as songwriting partners. The song is simply mesmerising and a standout on an album filled with them. “Isobel was a portent of things to come as Bjork moved on to more esoteric music stylings later in her career. It is a post modern feminist track bar none.

Possibly Maybe can be best described as a modern torch song. The song was inspired by Bjork’s failed relationship with Stephane Sednaoui. It contains glichy techno with a cool heavy bass. The funk that is developed provides a sensuality that underpins the themes of the song. Under examination is the conundrum of if it is worth it to fall in love and what does that term mean. Additionally it questioned if we are endlessly addicted to uncertainty, unwilling to commit, “uncertainty excites me baby, who know what’s going to happen?” The track is like a timeline of a relationship from the start to the end of the affair without ever defining what it was at any one point, “possibly maybe probably love.”

I Miss You Is a great dance track and a song about falling in love with someone you haven’t met yet. “Can you miss someone you have never met?”…”And if you believe in dreams or what is more important, that a dream can come true, I will meet you.” There is a winsome longing that is lying just under the surface on this song. That longing hides under the funky horn filled world beat. Bjork is hiding her feelings in plain sight obscuring them with an expertly executed dance club track.

Cover Me has a surreal dream like feeling and that typical off kilter Bjork styling. The subject is how dangerous and difficult Bjork managed to make creating this album. It is the song that was recorded on the beaches of the Bahamas with the trappings of the studio precariously dragged out onto the beach for the process. It is brief but alluring song.

The final song Headphones was written as a thank you to producer Graham Massey for his mixing tapes. The track is fittingly dreamy and somnolent as it describes Bjork drifting off to sleep while listening to music. The whispered background voices are obscured and provide mystery on this sensual and sinuous track. “My headphones they save my life, your tape it lulled me to sleep”. The song is a brilliant lullaby ending to another trailblazing album.

Like many artists following up a successful debut release, Bjork was under enormous pressure to deliver the goods. Many questioned if she would succumb to the dreaded sophomore slump that ensnares many performers. Post reveals that Bjork could exercise that demon and pull off yet another triumph with flying colours. Bjork again moves through so many genres, moods and sensations and comes out with a compelling timeless release. She would move on to record Homogenic in 1997 and complete the trilogy that marked her 90’s solo career. In the beginning of the new century she would move beyond the earthly concerns of musical popularity. Bjork would go on to shape-shift her way through the 2000’s and into her latest manifestation, 2015’s Vulnicura all the while retaining her solid fan base and critical acclaim. She has along the way become her own cloistered “genre of me” in a land where no one will ever unseat the queen. “Post” was her second step up to that lofty throne.

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