1993: Elektra D 160021

  1. Human Behaviour
  2. Crying
  3. Venus as a Boy
  4. There’s More to Life Than This
  5. Like Someone in Love
  6. Big Time Sensuality
  7. One Day
  8. Aeroplane
  9. Come to Me
  10. Violently Happy
  11. The Anchor Song

When I first heard this album from beginning to end, in Glasgow in 1994, when I was on assignment for Wizards of the Coast, I was far more impressed than I had been by scattershot listenings. So impressed, in fact, that I announced to coworkers there and in the company’s U.S. office that I wished to be known as “Mjärk” for the rest of the day. (The marvelous Jared Earle very helpfully created an email alias with that name and kept it active for nearly a year.) I’d heard a few of the singles but had never seen the videos and only had the dimmest idea of who Björk was, so I kind of backed into this album later than I would have liked. I still enjoy it, though almost exclusively on headphones. Something about it just doesn’t feel right when I hear it on speakers, maybe because of the sense of intimacy she gives songs such as “The Anchor Song” and “Like Someone in Love;” I feel much the same way about her latest, Vespertine.

One quirk about “Like Someone in Love: sure, it’s a jazz standard…but actually this version was the first I heard of it, and when I return to it 15 or so years later I find Björk gave it the best personally honest expression I have heard. Is her vocal performance marvelous, magical, lyric? No, not at all. But it’s more real than what is usually delivered as a Ballad, a Song, a piece of craftwork presented by craft…acted rather than personally expressed. When Björk sings it, it is as though she is confiding this to you intimately, over coffee perhaps, and can’t help bursting out from time to time much more loudly. It very much reminds me of Gertrude Stein’s comment about popular fun made of her “rose is a rose is a rose” line: “in that line the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years.” Björk restored this song to a pure expression of love, freeing it from decades of stagey trappings and cloying performance, and I really did not recognize how well she had done so (whether it was intentional or not) until much later.