Sunday, 1 March 2015

Popular Music - February 2015

Tori Amos - The Beekeeper
Tori Amos - Unrepentant Geraldines
Bjork - Homogenic
The Dissociatives - The Dissociatives
Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady (Metropolis Suites IV and V)

Between streaming services and the discs I own, I've been exploring Bjork's discography over the last couple of months. And I've finally figured out what it is that I don't like about her music.

I don't mean to be nasty about it. The reason I keep going back to her music is because I keep sensing I get something out of it. And indeed, one thing this current exploration has shown is that there are quite a few of her songs that I really enjoy, and some of them are flat out beautiful.

It's sustaining that beauty and enjoyment over a full album that's the problem. Having said that, I'm now inclined to buy myself a copy of Vespertine because I think it might be the one fully successful album, and I might eventually buy most of the others so that I can then create myself some playlists of the best work. Yes, I could just buy individual tracks online, but that's not really how I roll. I'm too fair and would still give the rest of the tracks a chance to convince me that they're better than my current opinion of them.

I've given some of those tracks quite a few chances already, though. And the bad tracks on Homogenic, the one album I currently own on CD, are as good a demonstration of that as any. Here is an album that epitomises my frustration with Bjork, because it has some stunningly beautiful tracks - particularly "Joga" and "Unravel" - but several in the second half that are bad or boring.

And the biggest single difference? It's not the slightly odd singing voice (although it is one of the great things about "Joga" that Bjork really opens up her throat and creates a beautiful round sound instead of sounding like a pixie). Nor is it the slightly odd English lyrics, as their presence is almost a given.

No, the really big difference is the use of beats.

It's not simply that I dislike the presence of beats.  "Joga" has beats. The problem, which I've finally put my finger on after listening to 7 different albums, is that Bjork has this habit of slapping big intrusive beats onto songs with all the subtlety of a charging rhinoceros. There are songs where there's simply no musical reason for them, and also songs where there doesn't seem to be any musical idea besides looping the same boring pattern of beats and singing over them.

So that's why I find myself unable to get on the Bjork fandom express. But I guess I shouldn't dwell on the songs that frustrate or repel me. I should focus on the ones that make me want to be a fan in the first place. Like this.

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