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"Björk Gudmundsdottir was born November
21, 1965, in Reykjavik, Iceland. Before becoming a solo act -- a phenomenally
successful solo act, one might add -- Björk was the vocalist of several
bands throughout her career. In 1977, Björk recorded her first album. 2
years later, the eccentric 13-year old became a member of Exodus, and the band
made an appearance on Icelandic television. It was when she formed the band
Tappi Tikarass that Iceland would get to know Björk as the star act. When
she was invited along with other members of the New Wave to become a
'supergroup' for a one-time session on radio program, Björk met her future
band mates Einar Orn and Sigtryggur Baldursson.
The three formed a new group, Kukl (Icelandic for "witch"). Björk put all her creative energy in the new band, and together they released two albums, The Eye and Holidays in Europe, and went on a European tour before calling it quits in 1986. While 1986 marked the end for Kukl, it marked a new beginning for Björk and her husband, guitarist Thor Eldon, who saw the birth of their son Sindri.
1986 also saw the birth of The Sugarcubes, a new band formed by Björk, her husband and several Kukl members. In 1992, the single Hit, off the album 'Stick Around For Joy' was a huge success; unfortunately, the Sugarcubes did not stick around for more joy and broke up that year. On her own after having broken up with her husband, Björk moved to London with her son in 1993, ready to begin her solo career. "
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¾ 1993: Debut
"Freed from the Sugarcubes' confines, Björk takes her voice and creativity to new heights on Debut, her first work after the group's breakup. With producer Nellee Hooper's help, she moves in an elegantly playful, dance-inspired direction, crafting highly individual, emotional electronic pop songs like the shivery, idealistic One Day and the bittersweet Violently Happy. Despite the album's swift stylistic shifts, each of Debut's tracks are distinctively Björk. Human Behaviour's dramatic percussion provides a perfect showcase for her wide-ranging voice; Aeroplane casts her as a yearning lover against a lush, exotica-inspired backdrop; and the spare, poignant Anchor Song uses just her voice and a brass section to capture the loneliness of the sea. (...) Possibly her prettiest work, Björk's horizons expanded on her other releases, but the album still sounds fresh, which is even more impressive considering electronic music's whiplash-speed innovations.
-- Heather Phares, AMG
¾ 1995: Post
This Icelandic marvel is such an original that, even after four Sugarcubes albums and a brilliant solo Debut, she remains an acquired taste. Army of Me is a turbulent, darkling tune that's almost conventional next to the gloriously eclectic material that follows. Working with Tricky, Soul II Soul / U2 producer Nellee Hooper, and string arranger/one-hit wonder Deodato, Björk looses her helium-fueled voice and surreal wordplay on Gershwinesque pop (the adorable It's Oh So Quiet), ambient dub (Possibly Maybe) and all kinds of fresh dance/pop hybrids (Enjoy, Hyper-Ballad, I Miss You). Too raw and adventurous for mass success, perhaps, but a more unique, engaging, oddly accessible artist just doesn't exist.
-- Jeff Bateman, amazon.com
1997: Telegram A few years ago this would have been called "a bunch of remixes." But now remixing for the dance floor has become recognized enough as an art that this can be hyped as "radical reinterpretations" of songs from Bjork's last album Post (get it? Telegram... Post). That's a pretty fair description: basically, the record is a bunch of covers of Post songs for which Bjork was kind enough to show up and sing vocals. Some of the more extreme remakes include the ever-dabbling- in-rock Brodsky Quartet who do a chamber music version of the lovely Hyperballad, and Outcast who do a grindingly techno version of Enjoy. Dobie has thrown in a reggae dub into the middle of a loping I Miss You. (...) In the end I find the remixes interesting, but uniformly inferior to the original mixes. When I listen to the artistic choices made on this record, it gives me a renewed appreciation for the skill and tastefulness exercised on the magnificant Post. The net effect of listening to this record was to make me go back and listen to Post.
-- Eric Hsu, Consumable, 2/97
Homogenic came in 1997 as an emotional explosion. Björk had moved to Spain to record an album that would sound like Icelandic nature : trying to put a definition on what Icelandic techno would be like. Earthquakes, volcanos and lavafields, mixed with high-tech elements and strings. Aggressive beats mixed with soothing ballads.
2000: Selmasongs: Soundtrack from Dancer in the Dark
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"With Vespertine, Bjork listeners braced themselves to be bowled over once again. To get their ass kicked. To be mesmerized. But instead, Bjork often retreats into a whisper. Her voice is so delicate on Vespertine, you half expect it drift away and disappear. I kept revisiting the album, almost pleading it to grow on me, but it never fully sank its talons in. Bjork's contentment in her personal life results in her most stable album, and frequently her least interesting. One of Bjork's greatest assets is her other-worldly voice. Bjork sings about going to "a hidden place" on the first track. And the first thing she chose to hide was her voice. Now, devoid of beats and voice, the songs have to rely on her lyrical power -- and on Vespertine, it's not enough to carry the album. (...) Vespertine is a love/hate album. Many fans either consider this her best album, or her worst. Few have ranked it in the middle. There have been a few times that I have seriously enjoyed the album. However, most music needs the ability for a person to identify with the artist to be effective. And just when I think this album has grown on me, I'll put 'Debut' or 'Homogenic' back on again, and both albums will blow me away again."
-- Sean McCarthy, The Daily Vault, 01/03
2002: Bjork: Greatest Hits
"Compiled via a fan survey conducted on her Web site, Björk's Greatest Hits eschews presenting the tracks in chronological order, making for a jumbled ride through the vocalist's unique, twisted, and frequently brilliant discography. A few welcome surprises surface, including EP remixes, a rarity (the 1993 David Arnold collaboration Play Dead), and the previously unreleased It's in Our Hands, a clever blip-pop number that would have fit nicely on either 1997's Homogenic or 2001's Vespertine. Starting off with a dreamy remix of All Is Full of Love, the collection contrasts giddy dance-pop like Hyperballad with the brooding thump of Army of Me and Debut's Human Behaviour, while injecting liberal doses of experimental ballads such as Joga and Pagan Poetry."
-- Matthew Cooke, amazon.com
¼ 2004: Medulla
"I only wanted to work with vocalists," Bjork proclaimed in a recent magazine interview. No instruments? No problem. Welcome human beatbox artists Schlomo, Rahzel (of The Roots) and Dokaka. And many tracks still have a distinctly electronic edge, helped along by Björk's longtime collaborator Mark 'LFO' Bell. Björk also has the most powerful instrument of all at her disposal - her voice. Fans will feel at home with the opener, The Pleasure is All Mine, with those familiar trademark wailings and some pleasant Vespertine-like harmonies courtesy of an Icelandic choir. (...) Where is the Line is a mish-mash of ideas, sounding like a fight between a choir and a rack of effects boxes, with neither winning. Oceania too, which opened the Athens Olympics, is spoilt by some overenthusiastic vocal whoopings. An Inuit throat singer called Tagaq is also brought into the mix, whose contributions range from unnerving (The Pleasure Is All Mine) to downright horrid (Ancestors). (...) Medúlla has some high points, and it never gets boring, but it still left me feeling rather confused. It was recorded in 18 different locations, and you can tell - the end product feels disjointed and at times claustrophobic. Whereas previous albums like 'Vespertine' were real growers, some people may lose patience with this one. The unquenchable desire to try out new ideas, which makes Björk such an exciting artist, may prove to be her downfall on Medúlla, as too much of the experimentation doesn't quite hit the mark."
-- David Hooper, bbc.co.uk
Tracklisting: 01. Earth Intruders 02. Wanderlust 03. Dull Flame Of Desire 04. Innocence 05. I See Who You Are 06. Energy / Vertebrae By Vertebrae 07. Pneumonia 08. Hope 09. Declare Independence 10. My Juvenile
"Anyone still scratching their heads over all that Inuk throat singing on Björk's last album, 'Medulla', will probably be relieved to hear that the Icelandic pop star puts rhythm right up at the forefront of her sixth solo effort. She likes to use the word ''tribal'' when describing Volta, and, indeed, the record is heavy with beats. There are guest appearances from little-known, indie-centric drummers like Mark Bell of U.K. techno pioneers LFO and occasional Sonic Youth collaborator Chris Corsano. And there are the three tracks produced by Björk and Timbaland a hyped pairing that's inspired giddiness among pop fans who consider the Justin Timberlake Svengali to be a percussive panacea. All of which makes it a damn shame that Volta isn't nearly as groovy as it sounds on paper. (...) Where 'Volta' intends to be primal and liberating, it too often feels crude and slapdash. Take Earth Intruders, a Timbaland track that opens the album. It echoes Björk's 1995 marching anthem Army of Me, but is hamstrung by oddly muffled drums. (...) The disc's problems, unfortunately, are more than a matter of poor percussion. The Dull Flame of Desire, for instance, featuring warbling guest vocalist Antony Hegarty of New York-based avant-pop faves Antony and the Johnsons, begins strong, with the album's prettiest horn melody. But the song's title becomes all too appropriate as the duo tease and mangle the same refrain ''I love your eyes, my dear'' over and over with increasing theatricality. The sappy vamping is so excessive that even Björk's beautiful voice grows tiresome. At that point, not even the hottest beat would help."
-- Neil Drumming, Entertainment Weekly, 5/07
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