Björk – Volta

Björk - VoltaBjörk’s new CD… For me, Volta has been the most anticipated album by Björk. Hyped press and intriguing interviews combined with her show stopping performance at Coachella really put me on end for Volta to be released. The first few leaked songs gave me hope that it would have the feeling of Homogenic with the pop sound of Debut, something that I feel Björk needs to reinvent. So in a nutshell, how does Volta make me feel? Half-fulfilled.

I was so ready for a more accessible album by Björk; something that I could show my friends and not get the “I don’t get it” looks Björk instills in so many people. From what I heard at Coachella, Volta would be exactly that. Her old greatest hits with “Earth Intruders”, “Innocence”, “Wanderlust”, and “Declare Independence” thrown into the mix gave the impression that Volta would be a more “up” album than the murky Medulla. Even Björk’s interview with Pitchfork has her saying that it would be a “fun” and even “poppy” record; this is not the case.

The album does feature a heavy dosage of brass; I’m not too sure that it’s beneficial. Because so many of the tracks do rely on the horns for their warm ambient tones, it limits the sound that I have come to know as Björk. One plus side of the brass is that they make their tracks seem fairly immediate. In one of her video interviews, Björk describes Volta as being fairly spontaneous; the brass section contributes quite a bit to this end.

Here’s a paragraph dedicated to my favorite song on the album: Innocence. But first I must admit my guilt at enjoying the two Timbaland collaborations the most. Now that that’s out, Innocence packs a major punch. In case you don’t believe me, just listen to the track; one of the samples used sounds like a guy getting punched in the gut. The beat here is insane. It is very repetitive, but that is something that I like about the track. In addition to the sweet but short beat, the main synth is sweet, if not sweeter than the beats. It is a very wobbly tone to it and its high pitched distortion give it a unique sound that I have never heard before. To me, its what an Asian synth would be if someone took it and applied every kind of degrading effect on it (and if there were synths for difference places of the world). The lyrics are very nice as well, but the music is what I love about it.

As you can probably tell, I have very mixed feelings about Volta. The slower tracks don’t grab you like “Hidden Place” or “Unravel” do, but the more upbeat tracks are unforgettable. I give Volta a slight-medium thumbs up (that is a technical term in case you aren’t familiar with the rating system…)

The Coachella 2007 Experience

Zach De La Rocha @ Coachella

Here is the short version of my Coachella Experience. I’ve tried to organize this in chronological order from Friday to Sunday.Bands

  • Friday Favorites: the Noisettes, Silversun Pickups, Arctic Monkeys, Björk
    • the Noisettes were spectacular, very unique… same goes for Silversun Pickups (sweet drummer)
    • Tokyo Police Club=huge letdown, dissappointing
    • Arctic Monkeys need to move around a bit (physically), but great music
    • Interpol needs to never play music again
    • Björk needed to play forever, I was starstruck
  • Saturday Favorites: Hot Chip, Kings of Leon, the Arcade Fire, the Red Hot Chili Peppers
    • the Cribs needs a wardrobe change, good music
    • Hot Chip wins the “Funnest Show” award
    • MSTRKRFT (and most DJs) need to move around a bit, I know that your Macbook is sweet, but there’s a crowd to entertain
    • Kings of Leon brought the hard rock
    • the Arcade Fire needs a new sound guy (maybe that was Coachella’s fault)
    • Red Hot Chili Peppers needed more BloodSugarSexMagik, amazing light show though
  • Sunday Favorites: Lupe Fiasco, the Roots, Rage Against the Machine
    • Mika should be the lead singer of an 80s hair metal band
    • Lupe Fisaco wins the Grammy (or he should have at least)
    • Against Me! brought some pure punk to Coachella
    • The Roots almost made me cry, up there for best all weekend
    • Willie Nelson should sing more about pot, that one song was hilarious
    • Crowded House should have left the stage after the water bottle incident
    • Manu Chao was overly repetitive, extremely high energy
    • Rage Against the Machine never left, they play as if it’s still the 90s. Amazing. Amazing…

It really is hard to believe that it is over. This event that I have obsessed over for three months has come and gone. It was so worth it, and I will be there next year rain or shine.

Coachella 2007: Björk

Bjork HeadshotMany people have called David Bowie a chameleon, but he is nothing compared to Björk. She has gone through many transformations both physically (how she looks) and sonically (how her music sounds) since her solo debut in 1993 with Debut. Being from Reykjavík, Iceland, her accent and tonal voice goes against nearly all of western culture’s pop sounds. Here is the progression of her sound though each successive album:

  • Debut: A very expansive album, probably more-so than any of her following albums. It contains a mix of dance, earthy, new age, beat-centered songs. The beat-driven aspect is a vein or theme that does run through all of her music.
  • Post: More abstract. Just listening to the opening tracks “Army of Me” makes it obvious where she wanted to go with this new album (following the platinum Debut.) Possibly a bit darker… just a progression. Björk describes it as being more “extreme”.
  • Homogenic: My favorite album. This album is definitely in my top 10 of all time. The beats are much more pronounced, scattered, and massive. Homogenic just has an epic sound to it. The song Pluto (2nd to last track) has become the song for her to perform and/or close with. Its griding and distorted synths, vocals, and beats make it raw and brutal. “Emotionally, this album is about hitting rock bottom and earning your way up. So it’s the darkest album I’ve done emotionally, but it’s got a lot of hope.”
  • Vespertine: Much softer. The sound that characterizes Vespertine is very angelic. “Vespertine is sort of a winter album for me. I think Homogenic was very summer, very hot, burning desert.” It has a light sound that seems to float away.
  • Medúlla: When it was released, Medúlla received quite a bit of backlash. It was Bjork going against what her fans had grown to know and love: beats and synths. It didn’t matter whether hard or soft, but beats and synths combined with her other-worldly vocals are Björk. Medúlla has nothing other than human voices on it. Being fairly new to Björk when Medúlla came out, I enjoyed the sound. It is her most different album so far. It pushes our voices as instruments to their limits.
  • Volta: Yet to be released, the sound of Volta has been revealed only through interviews with Björk and a leaked track titled “Earth Intruders”. Volta is said to be very brass centered. Björk collaborated with quite a few artists for Volta, including Timbaland. We’ll see how it turns out, but “Earth Intruders” is amazing to say the least.

So that basically wraps up Björk as an ever changing artist. Just go look at some pictures of her, and you will realize what I mean when I say that she is a chameleon. She is truely a musical genius who has remained relevant through the fickle tastes of pop culture that are constantly changing.