Bjork; Stereolab.

Bjork; Stereolab. Two much-anticipated albums were released last week, and I promptly hopped over to Tower Records after my last class on Tuesday to get them.

Bjork‘s Vespertine is a fine, fine album, and it is growing on me with every listen. She has pretty much abandoned her dance diva days, but not necessarily the subject matter — this is still all about big-time sensuality. Each track is a finely-threaded, miniaturized, filigreed, ProTooled work; somehow wisps of jewelled lace come to mind. The album isn’t very melodic in the conventional sense and, as such, borrows more heavily from the theatrics of the Selmasongs album. The highlight comes at the end with “Unison,” the loveliest, most soaring song on Vespertine, but “Hyper-Ballad” it still isn’t. Along with Radiohead’s Amnesiac, this is the most experimental major-label release so far this year.

In contrast, Stereolab‘s Sound-Dust is a rather limp affair and, despite the presence of those fellers from Chicago (not the band Chicago, god no, but the folks from Tortoise / Chicago Underground Duo/Trio etc.), sounds like warmed-over Muzak. I saw them live a year or two ago, touring on the Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night album (or maybe it was Dots and Loops), and they rocked, coming across louder and harder in concert than in the studio. But this time the abrupt time changes, Laetitia Sadier’s run-on phrasing, the slightly off-kilter harmonizing — all quite endearing in previous albums — I find oddly cloying and grating somehow.