Sunday, March 29, 2015

Björk Marathon: Greatest Hits

With Björk's newly released hit record Vespertine and with Björk being pregnant with Matthew Barney's child, the year 2002 saw a retrospective of Björk's career, focusing on previously unreleased material and her greatest hits thus far. First released was the box set, Family Tree.

This set includes a book of lyrics entitled "Words" and five 3-inch compact discs, including "Roots CD 1," which has songs recorded from her previous bands, KUKL, The Elgar Sisters, and The Sugarcubes. "Roots CD 2" features a few B-sides and alternate versions of previous tracks from her solo works, "Beats" focuses on new and old songs with a heavy electronica flair, and "Strings" (CD 1 and CD 2) feature live recordings of Björk with the Brodsky Quartet through 1999 and 2000.

And lastly as part of this set includes a Greatest Hits CD as chosen by Björk.

This box set is obviously for the very hardcore Björk fan, but even for those who are more casual or new to her, there's a lot here that should please everyone who appreciate Björk's artistic, experimental work. There's a lot of art put into this box set, with all art work designed by Björk's frequent collaborators, M/M Paris, and including new collaborator, Icelandic contemporary artist, Gabríela Friðriksdóttir. Björk put a lot of herself into this set, tiptoeing us through a journey to her past, through known songs that sound ancient and yet new. Every CD in its oh so cutesy 3-inch dics is a highlight here, but the one CD from this set that I loved most of all were the Greatest Hits chosen by Björk. It gives us insight into the songs that she feels is her best hit singles, the most interesting choices being "You've Been Flirting Again," "Unravel," "Scatterheart," "I've Seen It All," and "It's Not Up To You." None of these songs were actual hit singles nor were they released as singles, but to Björk, they're the hits to her.

To go along with this release was a promotional single, "Nature is Ancient," which was originally a B-side to the "Bachelorette" single, but was later included into Family Tree.

A music video of the song was released in November 2002 even though the song was originally released in 1997.

Also released separate from Family Tree was the album Greatest Hits.

The songs here were chosen by Björk's fans through a poll on her website. A DVD edition of this CD was also released, containing all of Björk's solo music videos up to Nature is Ancient.

This is a no-thrills DVD with no extras or behind the scenes stuff. It's just Björk's music videos; all of them speak for itself, showcasing not only Björk's vast talent but that of all of her collaborators.

Along with this release was the debut of the music video of a new song called "It's In Our Hands," which features a heavily pregnant Björk (d'aww!).

There was also a live box set (released in 2003) called Live Box that includes all of her live CD's from Debut, Post, Homogenic, and Vespertine. The live CD's were also released separately at a reduced price.

And lastly, to bring the career retrospective at full circle is this Björk documentary, Inside Björk. 

This is nowhere near as close to being as good of a documentary as South Bank. This documentary is pretty underwhelming in comparison. It is far too short and sprints through her career far too fast, and it doesn't dig deep enough like the South Bank documentary did. Being that it's the only retrospective documentary DVD on Björk's life and career, however, one can't pass this over. If there's one thing about this documentary that the South Bank documentary doesn't have is commentary from Björk's industry friends and collaborators, like Elton John, Missy Elliot, Thom Yorke, the RZA (Wu Tang), Beck, Alexander McQueen, Sjón, and so many others. It's pretty amazing how so many artists from various genres from pop, rock and roll, rap, trip hop, and classical have been influenced by Björk.

And lastly, on top of the tons of stuff that was released around this period, was a composition written especially for Björk by composer John Tavener called "Prayer of the Heart," recorded by Björk and the Brodsky Quartet in 2001 and then played for a slide show presentation in 2003 for American photographer, Nan Goldin. This 15-minute track unbelievably spiritual and breathtaking. Listen to it. It may seriously give you goosebumps. Totally worth more than one listen.

Whew, some of you might be thinking, wow, this is a lot of material! Yes, it is, but every DVD, box set, and CD is worth every penny, seriously, because it's just so rich with wonders. This naturally won't be the last of Björk career retrospectives, but this one is the first, so this makes it pretty special. And I'd say that this one is the most rewarding and chock full of fond memories, hit compilations, lush rarities, gorgeous live recordings, quirky art work, and stellar music videos that harken not only Björk's past, but the brightness of her future as an artist, a pop star, and a new mother.

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