How comfortable do you like your music? More specifically, do you like your music to fit like a nice pair of fleece jammies (for fleece jammies music: see Norah Jones, Coldplay, etc.) or a great pair of 3-inch tall boots? There's nothing fleecy, cozy or comfortable about Bjork's new one, Medulla, but it's pretty hard to resist trying it on for size.
The Icelandic child star turned pop star is no longer pretending to be that cute-but-sexy little woodland imp that she was in her Debut days. In fact, I'd go so far as to say she's gone from pop star to pop-Priestess - and you'll know what I mean within the first few seconds of listening to Medulla's first track, "Pleasure Is All Mine." It's in that span of time that Bjork starts panting uncontrollably, a rolling beat-boxer fills in where a drummer would normally be and a cathedral choir warbles where a string section might fill in. And when it's done, every sound you just heard came from a human voice box - and that's the story of the rest of the album.
That's Bjork's challenge to you: Can you handle an entire album comprised solely of human noises? From the way Medulla comes across, it seems that Bjork is now fashioning herself to be some sort of musical goddess, and that the only thing that she needs to make an album is her own voice - no instruments, no nothing.
With this challenge come new inventions. On "Vokuro" she sings a capella in her native Icelandic. And even though you can't understand a thing she's singing, it's appallingly gorgeous. Her range and talent is even more apparent as her vocals roll and wrap around the primal-sounding dialect. On "Oll Birtan" she sings completely in gibberish.
Things don't get poppy until the sixth track, "Who Is It" and the ninth, "Oceania" -- but you won't find anything even remotely reminiscent of "Big Time Sensuality" or "Bachelorette" here. This album has your typical Bjork-isms, from her supreme vocal prowess to her always-groundbreaking experiments -- but unlike Homogenic or Vespertine, this album is more strange than marvelous. Because of the many peculiarities of the album, it's mostly hard to swallow. Experiencing Medulla is like taking a pill without any water, like sitting in wet clothes, like knowing you just ate moldy bread.
In essence, Medulla is like walking through a vat of honey in those three-inch heeled boots -- they look great, but damn are they uncomfortable.