Clarity of vision

Despite having worked with a myriad of producers and despite the progressive upward arc of her work, the best word to describe Björk’s music can be taken from the title of her third solo album: Homogenic.

“Homogenic” is usually used as a pejorative when describing a musician’s work, but as demonstrated on Björk’s Greatest Hits, the Icelandic singer has managed to ground her work in a single aesthetic, even when she’s bouncing from collaborator to collaborator.

On their own, Björk’s albums have felt like autonomous works, individual collections that share some similiarities with each other but diverge greatly in the detail.

There’s no mistaking the half-baked skeletons of Debut for the richly realized epics of Homogenic, nor the bizzare minimalism of Vespertine.

But when the different creative eras of Björk’s work are collected onto one disc, the similarities become more striking than the differences.

If the strings on “Hyperballad” were given more prominence, they would have fit nicely on Homogenic. If “Possibly Maybe” employed more esoteric samples, it could be mistaken for a track on Vespertine. “Hunter” from Homogenic and “Hidden Place” from Vespertine almost sound like they came from the same album.

Even the more radio-friendly songs — “Human Behavior”, “Army of Me” — fit snugly in Björk’s grand singular vision.

The non-chronological track listing goes a long way in stringing together Björk’s diverse output. Instead of presenting her career as a progression, Greatst Hits posits the influences which inform her music — an orchestral foundation supported by fluttering beats — has always been there.

Björk fans were solicited to vote for the collection’s track listing, a tricky proposition since a musician’s most popular works aren’t necessarily their best. (Case in point: Japanese band L’Arc~en~Ciel’s Clicked Singles Best 13.)

For the sake of continuity, remixes of certain tracks — “All Is Full of Love”, “Big Time Sensuality” — were chosen over their original versions. A smart move.

Even a brand new song, “It’s In Our Hands”, manages to weave itself seamlessly into what’s gone before.

At the time, it seemed Björk was taking steps to become the artist she is. In fact, she was become more of the artist she already was.

In a way, Greatest Hits rewrites Björk’s own history. She didn’t arrive at her aesthetic so much as she settled into it.