Remember Vespertine? No, you don’t, because you stopped paying attention to Björk immediately after the Big Time Sensuality video and spent the autumn of 2001 listening to Victoria Beckham like a barbarian, don’t lie.*
But you should remember Vespertine, because it is one of the most beautiful albums ever crafted, and it’s not just my opinion but also that of people who wear black-rimmed glasses and write for Rolling Stone Magazine (Pitchfork didn’t love it so that’s quite an endorsement in itself).
In it you find no bombastic pounding and a lot less hollering than in previous efforts, replaced instead by intimate whispers and beats created from tiny sounds such as cards being shuffled and ice being crushed, lovingly woven with swelling string arrangements and the voice of a pissed-off angel. The result evoques a Scandinavian winter morning at 4:30, you know, when everyone is asleep and you are the only one up and the air is razor-sharp going into your lungs when you take yourself out for a walk (we have all been there even if we haven’t, and if we haven’t, we should).
It is the smallest big record, a micro-musical triumph.
And then there are the visuals. Like the video for the first single, ‘Hidden Place’, in which Björk oozes a gooey substance from her tear ducts and then eats and snorts it:
You and I should neither eat nor snort things oozing from our eyes because we are not Björk and we never will be.
And then came the video for ‘Pagan Poetry’, which featured:
– (possibly maybe) Björk having all kinds of sex, rendered abstractly in post-production!
– Björk sawing a string of pearls into her live flesh!
– Björk’s unedited nipples in all their bouncing glory!
Naturally MTV had to ban it, because scandal and public morals and think of the children and then they shat on music videos as a whole and coughed up things like 16 and Pregnant and Jersey Shore. Just, no.
And, AND, as if that wasn’t enough then came the video for ‘Cocoon’, in which she shoots red thread from her tits like a boss:
Thanks for playing, Katy Perry.
Vespertine is so good, and still so accessible for a Björk album – which means you don’t have to writhe and squint your way through it and you actually come out of the other end feeling light and cleansed, like after a pleasant sauna session. Not super anxious and stressed about your mental health like after listening to Medúlla.
‘Pagan Poetry’, ‘It’s Not Up To You’, ‘Aurora’, ‘An Echo, A Stain’, you know what, the whole thing. It’s all beautiful, all of it.
NOTHING, you philistine!