|Polydor | discogs.com|
Vespertine was ranked first in my Top Ten Albums I Wrote About in 2016
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Hers is a voice you will never forget. It shrieks and wails, it croons and groans. It imparts universal truths and sketches vibrant character vignettes with equal ease, frequently within the same breath. Björk is a true artist, a woman of poise and skill whose works speak for themselves.
Vespertine is Björk's masterpiece — at once warm and wintry, she spins intimate tales of breathtaking beauty. Her vocals beckon, reclining on gentle pillowy strings embroidered with harp glissandi. Distant seraphim halo the proceedings, underlaid with icy crunches of percussion. This album is reclining in front of a roaring fireplace wrapped in a tartan blanket while snow blows past your window and hot chocolate warms your belly.
It is here that Björk summons a frosty delicacy lacking in her previous albums, which for all their brashness left their audiences gasping for breath. Vespertine effortlessly holds attention, glowing with an irresistible, hypnotic air of calm.
A careful balance is struck. Her earlier works are exciting and scattershot; Debut and Post comprise well over a dozen separate genres, whereas Homogenic is hell-bent on razing a bloody-minded path through landscapes of violent electronica.
Her later projects veer towards the conceptual and cerebral, sometimes losing the trees for the forest. Medúlla is a bizarre collection of sounds made only with the human voice, Volta ruminates brassily on the symbiosis between humanity and nature, and Biophilia philosophises on various scientific concepts. All of these, particularly the latter, seem more focused on leaving an impression than being enjoyable to listen to.
It is ironic, then, if intuitive, that her most personal albums are her most enthralling. Vespertine only compares to last year's Vulnicura, a volcanic catharsis of an album produced in the wake of a bitter divorce. Fittingly, it was the beginning of that very relationship that inspired the insular intimacies and celestial, snowy soundscapes of Vespertine.
In no other artist's portfolio can be found such richness, variety and genuine depth. Björk is a banshee. Björk is an angel. Björk is Björk