Scratched Into Our Souls

Björk – “Pluto” | July 10, 2010

Iceland’s most well-known cultural export is the sweeping artistic achievements of Björk Guðmundsdóttir, that swan-dress wearing girl with the one-of-a-kind voice. While Björk has been relatively quiet on the music scene since her spotty and flawed 2007 album Volta, I’ve found myself returning more and more to her fantastic and deeply rewarding back catalogue. Each of her albums is a unique affair, with stylistic differences from one record to the next ranging as wildly as any artist I know. While ambition and artistic vision like her’s is admirable and often commonplace, the most impressive aspect of Björk’s music is the sustained quality throughout it all.

Forgiving the reductive nature of this comparison, I can’t help but see the striking similarities between the works of Björk and the artistic achievements of the popular art-rock band Radiohead. Of course, Björk unfairly gets forgotten (to a degree) by hipsters and critics a lot of the time, most likely because there still is a huge preference towards white male-dominated rock bands in a white male-dominated world of criticism. While her artistic achievements differ quite a bit from those of Radiohead, I can’t help but feel that she is still slightly underrated in the world of music, despite the critical praise she has managed to garner in the past. I think that years from now, people will utter the name Björk in the same sentences as Radiohead, Nirvana, Arcade Fire, Beck, and The White Stripes when talking about the most important artists of the 90s and 00s.

There have been whispers rumors of a new album in the works, which I can only hope will turn out to be true sooner rather than later. Just two weeks ago, she released a collaborative EP entitled Mount Wittenberg Orca with the Dirty Projectors, which is a fantastic twenty-minute song-suite anchored by the interplay between the bright and angular harmonies of the Dirty Projector girls and Björk’s disjointed vocal accompaniments and melodic intuition. The power of Björk’s voice is underplayed on the album, but she complements the Dirty Projectors very well, flowing naturally with them.

But when it comes to the unyielding power of Björk’s voice, perhaps no song highlights her strengths better than “Pluto,” the oft-forgotten ninth song of Homogenic, my favorite album by her. Often overshadowed by the more tender and beautiful songs like “All Is Full Of Love” or “Joga” from the same album, “Pluto” is an ugly, unruly beast. Over glitchy beats reminiscent of the IDM of Aphex Twin, Björk quietly begins the song with a sinister admonition through clenched teeth: “Excuse me / But I just have to explode / Explode this body off me.” By the end of the song, she will.

Listen: Björk – “Pluto”


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    About Me: Chris Robinson

    A budding writer and avid music fan from Los Angeles, California, I am a recent graduate of Music History from UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music. I've written for the UCLA Daily Bruin, graduated valedictorian from high school, and enjoy many different types of music, from The Beatles to Beethoven, and everything in between. I wrote my senior thesis on lyrical misinterpretations in popular music, focusing on Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

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    All music posted on this blog is for sampling purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Go out and buy their music, attend their shows, and buy merchandise.

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