* * * * BJRK "Vespertine" Elektra
Well before Radiohead visited the outer limits, Bjork established herself as a true pop adventurer with a string of esoteric albums that laughed in the face of categorization. Perhaps having reached a point where she's abandoned all concerns about commercial success, the Icelandic singer seems to reach deep within herself for her truest and most impressive work yet.
Those willing to accompany the waif-like artiste on her Lewis Carroll-esque journey are in for a magical ride through the looking glass. Through intricate melodies that are simultaneously haunting and soothing, Bjork and her collaborators create a series of dreamy soundscapes, particularly on the lush "Harm of Will," the summery "Sun in My Mouth," and "Pagan Poetry," which uses electronic programming and a music box to produce its quiet beauty.
That mix of old and new technologies is utilized consistently on "Vespertine" (due in stores Tuesday), as Bjork often combines orchestration or harps with beat programming. The blend results in an effective backdrop for her frequently hushed intimate vocals.
Bjork has been one of music's most consistent artists in recent years, but she has surpassed even her own lofty standards with "Vespertine," which not only rivals 1995's "Post" as her best work yet, but is also just about as good--and as daring--as popular music gets.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.