“Debut” was nothing short of a success for Björk, significantly outperforming her label’s sales expectations fifteen times over within three months after release and playing a huge part in changing audience’s perspective of electronic music as a respectable art form. Huge opportunities came Björk way prettt quickly, such as working with David Arnold to create the theme to the movie “The Young Americans” titled “Play Dead” and co-writing the 1995 single “Bedtime Story” for Madonna. It wouldn’t be long after that Björk would start working on “Debut’s” followup, which she intended to reflect her life now that she was living in the big city of London. She brought back Nellee Hooper to co-produce the record with her, but decided she wanted to collaborate with more producers to keep things new, enlisting further help from previous collaborator Graham Massy from 808 State, producer, rapper, and trip hop pioneer Tricky, and Scottish musician Howie B. Recording and production was originally supposed to be completed in The Bahamas, but Björk brought the songs back to London to extensively rework the project after she wasn’t satisfied with the final tracks. After finishing production in London, the record was mixed by Howie B, Marcus Dravs, and Mark “Spike Stent”, and through One Little Indian, Elektra, Mother, and Polydor Records, Björk released “Post” on June 7th, 1995.
Ooooooh yeah, this is the good shit.
In just two years, “Post” takes all the things that made “Debut” good and expands on them on all fronts. The album art for both albums is actually a representation of the difference between the two: “Debut” is black and white, reserved, introverted, while “Post” is bold, colorful, extroverted, vibrant. Both projects are clearly inspired by a wide array of influences, but while “Debut” felt more like taking a detour through every scene Björk was inspired by, “Post” sees all those influences intertwined into one shared world. But I think the real thing that takes “Post” up a notch is the confidence on display. This is a version of Björk who has lived in the city for a while, knows her way around town, knows her vision and how to execute it, and is able to boldly display her true magic.
Take the opener, “Army of Me”, a truly explosive opener. The industrial rock and trip-hop inspired track immediately gets right in your face, starting off with a loud scream before jumping into the main fuzzy bass loop and sample of the drums from Led Zeppelin’s cover of “When the Levee Breaks”. The song also features big band hits and descending dive bombs that were made by Björk scratching a coin against a bass string, and it adds some extra punchy textures to the already bombastic track. This song was inspired by Björk’s brother who was going through a rough period in his life, and the lyrics see her telling him to get his shit together and get his life back on track, getting the point across with her commanding and high energy performance. “Army of Me” is a ridiculously hard opener, especially being the first song following the more introverted “Debut”, and it strongly sets the tone for the rest of “Post”.
Following that, we get “Hyperballad”, which is…wow. This song is incredible. The sets a dream like mood with its tiptoeing drums, light electric piano work, and sliding sine synth, before exploding in the second half with cinematic strings and a full on house beat. However, what really sets this over the top is Björk’s distinct style of singing. Björk has this playful quality when she sings, where it sounds like she’s finding the words to say and the melody to sing as she goes, and this leads to the soaring and earwormy choruses to pack even more bombast and feel more powerful and emotional. Björk sings about taking time every morning before her partner wakes up to throw objects off of a cliff as a means to keep parts of herself as she gives the rest of herself to her relationship, and her voice is flooding with emotion and her soul as she sings “I go through all this before you wake up, So I can feel happier to be safe up here with you”. God, this song is amazing; the one+two punch of “Army of Me” and “Hyperballad” is an incredible way to kickstart the album.
Up next, we have “The Modern Things”, which see Björk exploring how the modern technology and inventions all come from the prexisting natural elements that have always existed on Earth, waiting for the capabilities of humans to turn them into something new. Björk wails and cries out over this gigantuous orchestra backed by a marching drum beat as she flips between English and her mother language of Icelandic. It’s like I’m listening to Björk sing overtop a John Williams score for a Jurassic Park movie that doesn’t exist yet in the best way possible. Then, out of nowhere, in the middle of this so far mainly electronic driven album, we get a cover of the big band jazz tune “It’s Oh So Quiet”, made famous by Betty Hutton. Björk goes from nearly inaudible hushes and whispers to hollering, shrieking, and squawking “WOW! BAM! AAAAAH!” over this 1950’s Jazz instrumental, and while it typically wouldn’t work on an album like this by anyone else it manages to fit in surprisingly well, being a standout moment for Björk’s powerhouse vocal performance while still feeling cohesive in the world she has built.
Afterwards, we get “Enjoy”, another trip-hop and industrial influenced song. Driven by a distorted synth, a drum machine loop, militaristic snare rolls, and these loud brass hits, the track sounds like the theme song to a modern spy movie with its slick coolness. Lyrically, Björk sings about fearing commitment with this person she’s been seeing in favor of living hedonistically and living for enjoyment, essentially giving birth to the first Charli XCX song. It’s abrasive, hard hitting, and another fun addition to the world of “Post”. Up next, we get “You’ve Been Flirting Again”, a track about how ambiguous the act of flirting is and how unsure you are of the other person’s intentions. This track is rather short and acts more as an interlude, featuring only Björk’s soft vocals and a string orchestra but it still manages to pack a lot of punch and emotion, truly a “less is more” moment. You can truly feel the sadness, heartbreak, and Björk trying to comfort the other person as the melancholic strings underscore her. Following that, we get “Isobel”, which features Björk’s first collaboration with acclaimed poet Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, aka Sjón. The song details a character named Isobel, who was born alone in a forest, moved to the city only to feel disconnected from how intellectual the people within it are, and then retreats back to train moths to give the people in the city a message of instinct and intuition. Hm, this feels like a metaphor for someone, I wonder what it could possibly be about. tHaT’s WeIrD 🥴. The song features lush orchestral instrumentation, sounding like a Broadway score introducing the main character, and it feels absolutely stunning as it sweeps you up in its gorgeous orchestration.
After this, we get “Possibly Maybe”, originally supposed to be a country song but in its final form almost sounds like something from a lo-fi hip-hop beats playlist with its glitchy synth backing, vinyl cracks, muted bass, electric piano, and gliding strings, with the only remaining feature from the original version being a slide guitar in the background. The songs details the beginning, honeymoon stage, decline, and breakup of a relation Björk had with director Stéphane Sednaoui, who directed the song’s music video, and Björk identifies the track as the first unhappy song she wrote, going as far as to say she was “ashamed writing a song that was not giving hope”. As far as my feeling go for it though, I think it’s an absolutely beautiful moment, and the sucker punch from it shifting from its lover and butterflies atmosphere in the beginning to the heartache and hurt as it goes on really leaves a strong impression. We then get “I Miss You”, a house track originally that would have fit well on “Debut” but feels more at home on “Post” for its explosive energy. This track is nothing short of a banger, beginning with an accordion motif over electronic house drums, then evolving to add a catchy trumpet section ear worm while adding some African percussion for additional zest and flavor. The song is about knowing who your perfect lover will be without having met them yet, and its bridge features relatable lines like I'm so impatient, I can't stand the wait, When will I get my cuddle”. Björk, that’s so bottom of you. It’s catchy, it’s danceable as hell, it’s a great burst of color and energy towards the album’s final moments.
Sadly, “Post” doesn’t 100% stick the landing, with the last two songs being the only ones I’m really critical of for how little they leave an impression compared to the rest of the record. “Cover Me” is a minimal track, seeing Björk only accompanied by harpsichord, and it was written after Nellee Hooper after he agreed to work with Björk again as a means to say “I’m gonna do some weird shit, let’s go on an adventure”. It’s a very pretty song, it’s just a little underwhelming and less strong than everything here. I’d probably enjoy it a lot more if the actual closer was stronger, though sadly “Headphones” kind of suffers from the same thing. I love the concept of it, I am a strong believer in the admirable art of making music about loving music, but, again, the ambient cut is just a little too unimpressionable for me. I understand why these two tracks were put here, and I do think they are good songs, don’t get me wrong, I just wish they were a little bit stronger as tunes if they were going to be the album’s very final moments, even if they were lowkey in nature. Kind of a lukewarm ending to an otherwise fantastic album.
“Post” continued Björk’s string of success, reaching the top ten in many countries, reaching #2 in the UK, and #32 in the US. It has sold three million copies worldwide and has over the years went platinum. Critics were even more positive this time around, including in the US who were more mixed on “Debut”, and notably was one of a very few records to received a 10 from the infamous Pitchfork. It was even nominated by The Grammy’s for Best Alternative Music Album, badly sadly lost to Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged in New York”. This would be the first of many Grammy snubs for Björk, which I am bitter about, but considering the album it was up against I’ll say it was more than fair on this occasion. In the nearly thirty years since, “Post” has earned a legacy as one of the essential art pop albums, notable for expanding the landscape of what pop music could be. Needless to say, I agree whole heartedly. “Post” is a fantastic record, further building on what made “Debut” so good and pushing it forward into a truly bold, magnificent, magical, and exciting album that still sounds incredibly fresh even nearly thirty years later. Björk perfects the relationship between her pop sensibilities and her experimental tinkering, and the result is an album that is full of filled with punchy, powerful, emotional, hard hitting, and absolutely fun moments. If this was a regular artist’s album, this would probably be seen as their masterpiece, but for Björk, this is only the beginning. “Post” is an explosive, bold, colorful, and vibrant album seeing an exciting artist come truly come into her own, and I can more than easily say that “Post” is Björk’s first great album.
And it wouldn’t be long for Björk to release her first perfect one.