shields: b sides


St. Vincent - “Power Corrupts” (Japanese Bonus Track)
“政権腐敗” (pronounced seiken fuhai), or “Power Corrupts”, is the Japanese bonus track off St. Vincent’s fifth release, Masseduction.

Favorite Bjork B-Sides

Björk has many B-sides or bonus tracks. Some are from soundtracks, while others are from singles that came out at the same time as her main albums (usually along with plenty of official remixes). I wanted to share a list of my personal favorite b-sides by Björk. Some bonus tracks are her worst songs, but a few are actually among the best. This image (above) is my favorite among the single album covers

10.) Foot Soldier (Hidden Place Single) - This song was basically tied with Visur Vatnseda-Rosu for this 10th spot. Foot Soldier won out only because she wrote this herself and Visur is a cover. This song immediately draws me in with it’s oddly timed thumping bass and flutters of harp (by the amazing Zeena Parkins). It is somewhat repetitive lyrically, but I don’t even mind.

9.) Atlantic (Human Behavior Cassette Single) - I adore the woodwind background music. It’s simplistic, but for some reason it reminds me of someone sailing on the ocean. The lyrics are in Icelandic, but translated, they are all about Björk kissing her lover, and then taking the traditionally male role of hunting/foraging for food to bring back to her warm home. It’s cute all around.

8.) Mother Heroic (Hidden Place Single) - Even for Björk, this is a minimalist song. It’s just her voice and a music box. She pours sweetness into the lyrics, which read like a short poem. It’s basically a lullaby by Björk - how could you go wrong with that?

7.) It’s in Our Hands (Family Tree & Greatest Hits) - I love the layers of sound she uses in this song. Multi-leveled bass, microbeats, electronic zaps (?), even clapping and snapping sounds. The music itself is constantly changing from one moment to the next. The repetitive lyrics are one of the slight drawbacks, but her delivery overshadows that. This is also one of the only b-sides to get a music video.

6.) Domestica (Pagan Poetry Single) - Domestica was actually the original name for the album Vespertine which always made me wonder why it didn’t even make the cut for the final release. Listening to the song in the context of the album shows that it doesn’t really fit in as well as other songs. In any case, in Domestica, she elevates the mundane tasks in the lyrics (finding her keys, being late, etc.) with unique sound effects like whistles or shuffling. 

5.) Scary (Bachelorette Single) - Bjork’s vocals over fairytale-like harpsichord is so fucking good. Her voice is unique on this song compared to most of her discography - I especially love the falsetto. You can practically hear her smiling and dancing around while she sings.

4.) Amphibian (Cocoon Single) - This song is all about atmosphere. There are no actual words - just free singing/gibberish. Touches like the plucked harp and distant whistling really add depth. To me, it tells a story without any words at all. I picture her wandering in a swamp in the evening - orchid blooms, fireflies flickering, spanish moss, etc. - but I also get the feeling that something is out of place. It’s eerie, and at the same time, alluring.

3.) Play Dead (Debut - UK) - This song was made for the soundtrack of The Young Americans. I never saw the movie and never cared to … but I am glad this song was able to come out of its production. Between the swirling strings and the melodic bass line, this song would sound epic enough… but Bjork’s strong vocals push it into a different league. It’s a shame that this is one of her worst music videos - not fully her fault though since it had to include scenes from the movie.

2.) Generous Palmstroke (Hidden Place Single) - Lyrically and sonically, this song feels like it could have been on Vespertine. The harp is a major focus for the instrumentals on this song. Zeena Parkins is plucking gently at some points, and at others, she is aggressively glissing up and down the scale. The choral humming in the background gives the song a bit of a mysterious edge. It’s one of those songs where Bjork sounds very emotive, which I love.

1.) Charlene (Isobel Single) - I don’t know what is it, but I adore this song. It’s my most listened to b-side by a healthy margin. The lyrics are ambiguous, but they come off as sexual. Who is Charlene? Is she a friend of Björk, or is she some sort of sexual encounter? (maybe neither… or both). In any case, it’s a bit of a mystery that you try to figure while the song progresses. That all plays out over the combination of a relaxed rolling bass line, crisp cymbals, odd electronic sounds used for the melodies, and even household sounds (drink poured over ice / cork popped from a bottle). Bjork’s voice is relatively subdued throughout the song. I especially love the ooo-ing by some girl during the outro (beginning at about 3:50) - it’s the definition of chill~.


Check back here tomorrow for our next episode! Here’s a hint regarding one of our discussion topics this week… -Anne