Björk launched Post’s kaleidoscopic mix of electronic and dance music, her inimitable voice, and fantastical, personal lyrics into a very different, almost alien post-grunge landscape. In 1995 Bush (the band) released Sixteen Stone, Slash’s Snakepit debuted with It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, Tommy Lee married Pamela Anderson for the first time, and Shannon Hoon died of a drug overdose. Elsewhere, Alanis brought us her Jagged Little Pill and the Pumpkins put out their vast double album, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. (Also, remember the ubiquitous Beatles Anthology?)
Björk and the Pumpkins shared a sense of ambition, but Post’s eclectic hybridization put Ms. Guðmundsdótti in a very different section of the record store. It was natural progression from Debut. When asked about the title “Post,” she told us that one reason for that word is that, “I felt the album was the other half of Debut, so it made sense to call it Post — before and after kinda thing.” Musically, she says, “The people I collaborated with on Post were all people I was hanging out with in clubs in London. I had known them all for a while before we ended up working together.”
These collaborators included Nellee Hooper, Tricky, 808 State’s Graham Massey, and Howie B. The process was in-depth and collaborative; for instance, she co-wrote “Enjoy” with Tricky, for instance. In her track-by-track comments accompanying Enjoyed, she also discusses writing “Army Of Me” and “The Modern Things” with Massey before Debut.
Like the subjects of our previous tributes, Björk remains an active and forward thinking artist (um, have you seen the “Wanderlust” video?!). In her responses to our questions, she compared Post to Volta, the album she released last year.
For me, Volta is a similar album … The style of it is all styles, sailing around the world going to new places making new friends. It is a beginning of a new period. Then Homogenic — that came after — was something more stable. Post was looking, Homogenic was what I found. Volta is definitely looking, and I can feel my next one is going to be more centered.
While Björk continues sailing, searching out newer sounds, take a listen to how a dozen of our favorite artists — many of them bands we’ve told you To Watch in the last year — tackled her older ones. Liars deconstruct “Army Of Me” and up its distorted fuzz. No Age remove “It’s Oh So Quiet”’s choruses and big band, turning it into a melancholic Jesus & Mary Chain-tinged love song. El Guincho whittles “Cover Me” into pure rhythm with dark, spiraling, waterlogged loops and a steady snare hit.
One of the comp’s most adventurous reinventions comes via Pattern Is Movement, who update “Enjoy” by — ironically — stripping the song of the computerized beats and synth shrieks that made it forward thinking in its original form. The duo rearrange the instrumentation and the track’s harmonic structure, introducing half-steps to the verse, instrumental countermelodies to the chorus, and an overall sheen of paranoid, showtune-esque composition. For all that, Björk’s spirit remains.
Others approached their covers more faithfully, while still infusing their own spirit and aesthetic into the new arrangement. After reading each artist’s individual statement, you’ll understand the reverence and intelligence in which every contributor approached the Post songbook.
Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear notes that “I realized recently that Björk is probably my most listened to and adored artist thus far in my life” and Atlas Sound’s Bradford Cox says, “Björk is an artist I love to admire and follow.” Mary and Rob of High Places note that “covering Björk is on par with covering other personal faves such as Morrissey, or Joni Mitchell, i.e., somebody who has become iconic/cult-status to their fans, and who also has such a distinguishable voice.” Or as No Age put it, “’It’s Oh So Quiet’ is such an amazing song … I think the original’s so incredible, so instead of trying to fit into its shoes, we used it as a jumping off point to inspire us to go towards something totally different.” Discussing the inspiration for his approach, Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth writes, “I think what I took from Björk when I was obsessed with her in high school was her way with deconstruction. She writes these classic melodies but breaks them apart so that it’s sort of up to you as the listener to put them back together. The song ends up meaning so much more because of the effort you have to give to it.”