2. Post (1995)

Similar to Debut, but with more: harder beats, a greater sense of interiority, and further exploration of Björk’s vocal range. The approach extends to the artwork: Jean Baptiste Mondino’s black-and-white portrait of the singer — clad in a sweater, hands clasped before her lips — is succeeded by a garishly vibrant, Stéphane Sednaoui-shot image. Lead single “Army of Me” set the tone. It’s an all-time great single, the kind of imperious, audacious modern rock that always eluded Trent Reznor. A menacing, bassy keyboard ostinato and live-sounding drum programming pin you to the ground; the refrain pairs Björk’s famous couplet “and if you complain once more/you’ll meet an army of me” with lowing divebombs. Some of these songs were written by Björk and 808 State’s Graham Massey before Debut; Debut’s producer Nellee Hooper returns, joined by trip-hop titans Howie B and Tricky, her romantic partner at the time. His contributions are “Enjoy” and “Headphones,” written during a trip to Reykjavik. On the former, he converts his penchant for cool menace into nagging industrial, punctured by clipped brass stabs; the latter is a complete stylistic break, a delicate, textural lullabye topped by a bravura vocal performance, combining sotto voce and multi-Björk ecstasy and pure wordless vocalization.

Already a gifted singer, on Post Björk claims even more space for herself. She shifts between effortless clarity and her trademark abandon, letting her multi-tracked vocals drift from foreground to background. The trip-hop/Chill Out fusion “Possibly Maybe” seems to chart a relationship from uncertain outset to cessation; the singer backs herself with judicious use of a Hollywood Golden Age vocal mode. In a more explicit nod to her beloved post-war pop, she covers “It’s Oh So Quiet,” a German composition made famous by Betty Hutton. Björk tracks Hutton’s arrangement meticulously, down to the music box and unhinged “WOW!” She has fun camping it up, but the track’s a bit precious, best sampled as a palate-cleanser during the course of the record. As usual, “It’s Oh So Quiet” became a hit on the back of a striking video, in this case a postmodern Busby Berkeley homage filmed by Spike Jonze.

Post marked Björk’s commercial peak; her two UK Top Tens (“It’s Oh So Quiet” and the winkingly-titled “Hyperballad”) are to be found here, and the baggy ode to anticipation “I Miss You” was her final hit on the US Dance Club chart. Her critical and commercial capital at an all-time high, she staged a retreat of sorts. 1996 found her touring the world and issuing the remix LP Telegram. In August, she decamped for Spain, ending her creative partnership with Hooper. She had new powers to summon.

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