Björk

Biophilia

One Little Indian/Nonesuch

Oct 10, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Since 1997's Homogenic, Björk's career peak in this writer's opinion, she has steadily released a new album every three to four years and with each new release, she has yielded fewer and fewer returns. This is not to say that Vespertine, Medulla, and Volta were bad albums, but they all did fail to capture the magic of Björk's '90s hot streak, in which she managed to be both effortlessly innovative and effortlessly melodic. Unfortunately, Biophilia continues this downward trend.

Biophilia plays like a compendium of Björk's last four albums: Homogenic's icy beats, Vespertine's gossamer romanticism, Medulla's a cappella excursions, and Volta's folk instrumentation are all present. Unsurprisingly, the songs that fare best are the ones most indebted to Homogenic. Although it may not be new territory for Björk, the coupling of luminous organ and bursts of jagged electronics on "Crystalline," "Sacrifice," and "Mutual Core" still sound fresh and entrancing.

The album's midpoint is certainly its nadir. "Dark Matter" and "Hollow" must be the limpest, most bloodless compositions Björk has ever released. "Dark Matter" consists of nothing more than Björk cooing over a soft, monotonous organ drone. "Hollow" is just as sparse, but the drone has been replaced with ominous organ stabs that can't be bothered to form anything resembling a melody. Elsewhere, "Moon" and "Solstice" offer interminable versions of Joanna Newsom's harp-laden poetry.

Biophilia has been billed as "an interdisciplinary exploration of the universe and its physical forces—particularly those where music, nature, and technology meet." While I applaud the idea and intent, I can't focus or care about the concept if I don't care about the music. Several tracks do reclaim some of Björk's past glory and inspire a bit of wonder, but the majority of Biophilia meanders weightlessly into space. (www.bjork.com)

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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Ryan
October 11th 2011
6:00am

WEAK review - Don’t believe it!
Homogenic is my favorite album also but Biophilia is definitely runner up. The album is inventive, alluring and mysterious - one of her most impressive efforts.

Eri
October 11th 2011
4:24pm

What a stupid review.

Austin Klein
October 12th 2011
6:21pm

So biased. This review has me wondering wether I’ll continue to read this magazine.

Mark Redfern
October 12th 2011
6:29pm

Austin, I’m sorry you feel that way. It’s just one review. We’re not biased against Bjork. We have favorably reviewed other albums by her and interviewed her back in 2007. This is just one critic’s opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of our writers like the album too. Don’t judge a magazine based on only one review.

Joey
October 12th 2011
9:57pm

Obviously, one reviewers opinion does not represent the entire magazine.  But, when considering the review of an album as large and high profile as this, I would expect that magazine to review it properly.  Does Mr. Ben Schumer actually know anything about music - or is he just another journalism major inadequately critiquing music?

Laura Studarus
October 13th 2011
3:38am

I’m a bit confused as to how this isn’t a “proper” review. Ben stated his case, laid out precedent as established by Bjork’s back catalogue, and determined that (in his opinion) it isn’t as good as her previous works. Would it be fair to review the album based off intent rather than achievement? Or give it a passing grade simple because it’s an notable artist that Under the Radar has given positive scores to in the past?

If you want to attack his option fine—it’s rare that an album receives (or deserves) universal acclaim. But the end of the day that’s what music journalism is: opinions. And, while I strongly disagree with the rating, I find no fault with the review.

Primed And Ticking
October 13th 2011
10:52pm

This album looks good on paper, but in reality it is about as enjoyable as watching paint dry. I really like Bjork, I’ve liked every album she had released to date. But, I can’t even work up the courage to listen to this again.

I happen to think that a 5/10 rating is extremely generous here. She doesn’t need her ass kissed just because she is Bjork btw!

Hollow
December 6th 2011
9:51pm

Sorry, but I also think the review is stupid :)
Mostly because Dark Matter/Hollow and Virus are my favourite songs from it. But I mostly listen to her latest stuff