In my world, musical creativity is measured in how daring an artist is willing to be in their work. Early examples of this can be found in the music of Missing Persons, Moby and this Icelandic singer with the not-so-simple singular name of Bjork.
The element that these artists share is that they all seem to be almost otherworldly in their approach to pop music, pushing the envelope as far as they can to separate themselves from the pack. Leading the misfit charge is Bjork, the Queen of Alien Pop Stars.
Who could forget Bjork’s inelegant swan dress (with an egg as an accessory, no less) from the 2000 Academy Awards? Or the many impenetrable albums she has released since her super 1993 solo debut, appropriately entitled Debut? And just when it seemed the world was about to forget about Bjork entirely, she releases her most accessible set of tunes to date in the colorful form of Volta.
Encapsulating the many wildly disparate genres she has delved into over the years, this is the Bjork album I couldn’t resist picking up. The amazing artwork and intricate cover design were enough to grab my attention, but the songs contained within makes this much more than just an impulse buy.
An Enneagram Type 4 if I’ve ever seen one, Bjork is truly in a league of her own. Nobody can touch her when it comes to singular visions and a quirky, original style. However, Volta comes as a welcome change, one that doesn’t alienate listeners like her previous efforts. Of course, bringing a producer like the popular Timbaland aboard never hurts. His presence is felt on the edgy, must-hear tracks “Earth Invaders” and “Innocence,” where Bjork does an admirable job of singing above the thrilling barrage of sledgehammer beats, percolating synth wails and other distorted elements.
Bjork produces the eight other songs, and all of them are winners because of how distinctive each one is in its own right. Somehow, it all blends together and has a flow that is exciting as it unfolds.
There is a loose harbor theme running through the course of Volta, with loud and jarring tugboat horn blasts, seagulls and assorted water noises to connect all the tracks together in an endless mix. Suspense even builds on the slower tunes like the lushly orchestral (and overlong) “Dull Flame Of Desire” and “Vertebrae By Vertebrae,” and both are replete with impressive drum and horn crescendos. The tender Asian-influenced “I See Who You Are” and “Hope” are other high points, the former featuring what sounds like a harp being played under water. Only someone like Bjork could pull off something like that.
The highly experimental “Declare Independence” starts out as a sparse number, until the in-your-face beats kick in and Bjork starts loudly commanding “Raise your flag!” This stuff surely ain’t for the faint of heart. Unsettling is an understatement, but it’s just the kind of track I was so waiting for by this extremely gifted artist.It’s all I needed to hear to deem Volta by Bjork my hands-down favorite album of 2007.