If there were any misconceptions about Björk’s gravity as a performer due to the lovable adorableness of Debut, she made a point to completely destroy them within the first ten seconds of Post. Zap! BWOM! Super-menacing synth loop! Björk doesn’t screw around. Post starts by confounding expectations and shattering whatever artistic chains most artists would allow themselves to be wrapped in if they started with something like Debut. Hooray for unpredictability!
“Unpredictable” is a good word for Post in general, but the best word is “colorful.” No two songs sound completely alike, and the result is an extremely punchy album that sounds…well, exactly like the cover. Björk herself has retained her mischievous, charismatic edge and wonderful vocals, so the soul and personality of the music remains instantly recognizable through all the hues and shades. As far as diversity goes, it’s a best-case scenario.
Now okay so this is all great BUT. The melodies on this album are really sub-par. Most of the songs barely have a hook, and since Björk’s vocals are at their most enjoyable when they’re playing off a bonkers melody, this is a distracting issue. I understand that some of these songs were constructed more as rants then singalongs, but an entire album’s worth of them really isn’t appealing to me. It’s a good thing the arrangements and lyricism are so sharp and memorable.
Most people single out the opening “Army of Me” as the best song, and though I don’t agree, it’s nothing short of gripping. The dark, confrontational synth arrangement is as striking as Björk’s no-nonsense vocals. This is especially impressive because the vocals did most of the heavy lifting on Debut, which was well-produced but often derivative.
The arrangement is also the highlight of “Hyperballad”, with its soft crashing synth waves and pitter-patters, its otherworldly whirs and stringy shines. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like it, and when complimented with surreally emotional lyrics and a beautiful vocal performance it becomes the highlight of Post for me. “Modern Things” isn’t much worse, though; another bizarre tonal shift with a mood that can only be described as soothingly apocalyptic. The arrangement makes each layer of sound easily discernable, growing quickly from its minimalist start to form some kind of demented Apple product presentation music.
Like Debut, the opening four songs are the unstoppable high point, rounded out by “It’s Oh So Quiet”, a hilarious old-timey part-Broadway-part-vaudeville-part-French cafe that subverts its premise in a way similar to “There’s More to Life Then This.” It’s not as brilliant as that song, but it’s great fun while it’s on and if you’re like me then you’ll have no problem with the intentionally saccharine arrangement.
From then on, there’s less memorable ideas but just as much vibrant, contrasting musical color. “Enjoy” has an arrangement that’s a bit too similar to “Army of Me”, but the unpredictably altered vocals, interesting lyrics, and funky horn frills elevate it. “You’ve Been Flirting Again” is a disarmingly gorgeous tearjerker. I think of it as a more refined version of “Like Someone In Love”: nothing but Björk’s voice and a soft arrangement, though the minimalist strumming guitar has been swapped for a constant underpinning of strings. Works for me! Continuing that sound is “Isobel”, which extends into full-on modern classical territory, albeit with crystal synths and spicy percussion. “Possibly Maybe” is a tad icy and distant for my taste, though it is rather elegant and the lyrics are brilliant as usual. “I Miss You” is more up my alley, a quirky and nigh-indescribable slice of pixie magic. “Cover Me” is awe-inspiring in its hollow, vast simplicity. It’s the musical version of watching a storm from inside while gathering the strength to venture out, and the effect is incredible. The album ends on a note just as strong, a “love letter to sound” named “Headphones.” The meticulous layers and fun twists throughout the subdued runtime are both reverent and fun, dripping with pure sonic inspiration.
The biggest difference between Debut and Post, besides the better arrangements and worse melodies on the latter, is that Post takes itself a lot more seriously and allows itself to throw some proper hooks in your soul. It didn’t quite grab me the way Debut did, and I do kind of miss the naivety that fueled so much of the creativity on that album, but musically I’ll take either one. If I want more satisfyingly unconventional melodies, I’ll pop in Debut, if I want amazing production I’ll pop in Post. They make quite a nice deserted island pair, and cover pretty much the entire emotional spectrum. All this is to say I don’t know which one I like better. Good thing I don’t have to choose!
Thematic Content: 5/5
Experience: DANGNABBIT THE PIXIE HAS FOLLOWED YOU TO THE REAL WORLD. Now it’s distorting your emotional landscape and taking your mind to really weird places. Good thing you don’t have any friends to embarrass yourself in front of, eh?
10/10. Best Song: Hyperballad
8/15/16 EDIT: Yeah, this is a 10+ so hard.