Wham! Pow! You’ve heard about the controversy…now hear the music! Given the all of the hype surrounding the tumultuous making of the Björk/Lars Von Trier collaboration, Dancer in the Dark, it’s reassuring to hear that everyone’s favorite Icelandic pop star is still at the peak of her musical talents. Apparently, the biggest conflict between Björk and Von Trier centered on the editing of her music, and with songs as good as these, it’s easy to see why she wanted nothing cut. With their gorgeous string arrangements and odd blips and clangs, these are industrial-strength showtunes that only Björk could create.
Selmasongs opens with the building orchestral instrumental “Overture,” which quickly gives way to the inventive factory rhythms of “Cvalda,” an energetic duet between Björk and Catherine Deneuve. (Deneuve also starred in the classic musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but oddly enough, didn’t sing any of her character’s vocal parts in that film.) Though the song echoes Björk’s sunny version of “It’s Oh So Quiet,” the following song, “I’ve Seen It All,” darkens the mood considerably. This duet with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke is both entrancing and somber, highlighting the drama that surrounds Björk’s character, Selma. Both Björk and Yorke deliver remarkable vocal performances, recalling the early days of Hollywood musicals. In fact, “In The Musicals” brings Selma’s fascination with these extravagant productions to a soaring height, as she sings, “There’s always someone to catch me,” with contagious conviction.
Björk’s short soundtrack also includes the cautionary “Scatterheart,” the numerical shuffle of “107 Steps,” and the majestically epic finale of “New World.” Balancing its dual role as the essential chronicle of Selma’s story and an album in its own right, Selmasongs easily stands along with Björk’s other utterly unique work. Its only real flaw is that there aren’t more of these amazing songs.
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