Biophilia review by Björk

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  • Released: Oct 10, 2011
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 8.6 (9 votes)
Björk: Biophilia
1

Sound — 10
I am prepared to get a ton of angry comments hurled towards my direction. The following will be expected: "This isn't rock or metal!" "This isn't guitar related!" and more. Of course, these are all true. However, I know many fans of metal and rock that appreciate the music of the always eccentric Bjrk. As well, I would like to bring awareness to what could be the album of the year (in my opinion. And if it isn't the album of the year, it's pretty damn close). So open your minds and ready your comments of hatred or agreement, because here we go. Bjrk's previous album, the tribal-dance Volta, was met with mixed reactions. Few loved it. Few hated it. Either way, many were disappointed. In a world where mainstream pop stars are now being praised for their bizarre clothing (seriously, Gaga's a genius at the grammys but Bjrk isn't at the Oscars? Bjrk started the whole egg thing with the swan dress but let's not get off track here), Bjrk has begun to slip away from the public eye. Her effort, four years after the lukewarm Volta, is Biophilia: The combination of humanity, nature and technology (the word may not directly mean all three but it's the overall theme on the album). This is the album to put her back on the map, and boy, did it ever. I don't want to stick to talking about the app aspect of the album too much since this is a review of the album itself. Oh, my mistake. For those who don't know, Bjrk has teamed up with Apple to release the album's songs as separate apps, where the user can control the sounds of the songs represented along with different activities (for the song Virus, you control cells that act as the instruments in the song, and the more virus cells there are attacking the major cells, the more the song comes together). Musically, this album is spectacular. The song writing itself is normal when it comes to Bjrk. Each song acts as a regularly written pop song. However, so were the songs on her album Medulla, and that was done with mostly human voices and beat boxing. Like here, the structures may be normal (well, save for the timing, where songs are 17/8, 7/4 and etc.), but the layers of instruments are astounding. This is an album that has to be heard with a good sound system, because the bass plays a demanding role in these songs. The bass wraps all of the sprawled upper layers together, creating a unified beautiful world of harmonic chaos. As usual, she has gone out of her way to make the songs have as much meaning as possible, especially musically. In the song Moon, a harp plays a certain amount of notes which may seem strange at first. Well, this is because each bar contains the same amount of notes as there are phases in a lunar cycle. Then you have Thunderbolt, where an arpeggio is played by a Tesla Coil (and the bar lasts as long as the average amount of time between thunder and lightning in a normal storm). Every song has this much thought put into it, and it's incredible that, with so many representations behind the music, it never feels too calculated but instead organic.

Lyrics — 10
Speaking of thought, it's time to discuss her lyrics. They've always been unusual, ambiguous and easily interpreted (to an extent) on a personal level (and probably not her's but just you, the listener's). Most of her albums contain stories revolved around characters and not particularly stories. Each album's cover represents Bjrk in the role of her character, and on Biophilia's cover, she is the bizarre music teacher. In her own words, the album represents a teacher trying to show the ways of the world through technology (presumably, the assignments being the iPad applications, but not certainly). Every song is packed with a barrage of symbols and interpretations made not by us, but by Bjrk herself. She describes the ways of the world through nature, such as the songs Cosmogony (in which she describes different origins of how the world came to be through religious and scientific ideals combined) and Mutual Core (where she compares the shifting of the world and the split of Pangaea with a struggling relationship). As previously stated, the lyrics all make sense for the most part. But then she throws in a line or two to completely catch you off guard and wonder what on earth that means? That's where the beauty of ambiguity comes in, where Bjrk allows us to add our own creative final touches to the story (for instance the line "Arrows in the flesh" in the song Sacrifice). Her singing is as stunning as usual. It sounds its purest on this album, in fact, as it matches the innocence of the music. When the songs break out into an unstoppable force of calamity (like the endings of songs Crystalline and Mutual Core), she sticks to singing softly and the contrast made surprisingly works very well.

Overall Impression — 10
This is one of her best efforts, without a question. It won't beat Homogenic or Vespertine, but it's up there as a close third or fourth (depending on your views of Medulla). People consider Homogenic, Vespertine and Medulla to be a trio of albums not based on any particular reason but just on feel. Some say they're her three best albums. Some say they sound similarly when it comes to songwriting. Volta stood out so much because, in comparison, it was significantly louder than the previous trio. Biophilia is louder than the trio at times, but otherwise, if Volta didn't exist, it would have added on and have made it a set of four. It's both a minimalistic album and one with so much going on. Even excluding the whole iPad app side to this album, there was just so much thought put into this cd, that it's hard to ignore. If Bjrk is playing the role of the teacher, she definitely created the best lesson plan you'll ever find. All of the songs become brilliant, but on the first listen some will stick out the most: The escalating Thunderbolt, the angelic Cosmogony, and the ringing, bass-filled Sacrifice. Maybe it won't be these songs that stick out for you. It could be others. That's the beauty of this album. You will always discover something new to love with it. This is a perfect addition to her nearly-perfect discography. Before I end this off, I must stress that YOU MUST GIVE A LISTEN WITH HEADPHONES OR A GOOD SOUND SYSTEM AT LEAST ONCE. This album explores with so many sounds that get drowned out or lost with bad speakers. Could this be the album of the year? Maybe. With albums by Panda Bear, St. Vincent, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Mastodon and more, this year has tough competition. Either way, it's really damn close to being the best, and I think those that are curious should check this out. It may be a while until you hear music with so much thought so natural again.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    hugh20
    This is a great review and album, definitely covered all the points and didn't talk about apps for too long. My only qualm and what makes this a 9/10 for me is that the apps and science theme makes the lyrics very 1D, but there are amazing ambiguous lyrical moments, just not as many as there could be. It really stops any unique interpretation. One of my albums of the year though, if not the one. Great review again, this is on wikipedia for Biophillia reviews!