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Björk - Selmasongs [Aka: Dancer in the Dark] (OST) CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.22 | 71 ratings

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3 stars "It's only the last song if we let it be..."

After completing the exhausting Homogenic tour Bjork was back in Iceland when she was contacted by director Lars Von Trier. He had seen her in music videos and was floored by her charisma and ability to steal a scene, so he asked her to be in his next project. "Dancer in the Dark" was a dark musical about a young woman whose life goes very wrong when she is charged with murder, and Von Trier wanted Bjork to write the music and star in the lead role as Selma. She was interested in the musical challenge but wanted nothing to do with the acting. Von Trier persisted, and eventually Bjork fell in love with the character of Selma and agreed to take the role. While the film was loved by some and loathed by others, there is no debate that it was a big success. Bjork and Von Trier didn't get along at all, but put their personal differences aside and completed the unique project. Bjork was a natural in this role but found it emotionally overwhelming and vowed not to act again.

Selmasongs is thus not a proper studio album but a soundtrack, and a short one at that. The mere 32 minute running time is these days more an EP than a real album. Despite the odd circumstances which bore these seven tracks, there were some pretty decent songs here. She seemed to be transitioning here from the mixed bag of Homogenic to the more fully realized songwriting she would do on Vespertine. Selmasongs is somewhere between the two in quality, although the lyrical content this time revolves around the film and not the musings in Bjork's head. Von Trier even had Bjork redoing some of the work which he found not to his standards, so given the headstrong nature of both it was not surprising that there was tension. On the film's character of Selma....

"We both feel more comfortable in a song than we do in real life. There's a great deal of escape from reality in both Selma and me. I only feel safe and calm when I make music and sing. The only difference is that Selma is more naïve than me because she really thinks life can be one long musical, and I don't think that any longer." -Bjork

The album begins with a sweeping, majestic orchestral "Overture" that sounds so amazing you'd think she had been composing film scores for years. "Cvalda" finds Selma creating musical opportunities in her head based on the natural sounds around her, something real life Bjork see as a truth. In a factory setting, all of the noises and clatter of the machines slowly build until they form the song, which is then given grand form in a raucous song and dance number. "I've Seen It All" is a duet with Thom Yorke that finds Bjork in a defense mechanism, minimizing the things in life Selma is missing by cleverly finding the holes in exterior distractions. Life instead is what the individual makes it. "Scatterheart" is the best track as a pure song, removed from the film. It is a prelude to the fantastic leap coming on Vespertine, as Bjork begins with a lullaby and then croons repetitious lines to bass and her electronic snaps and crackles. "In the Musicals" is as the title suggests, a dance number similar to "It's Oh So Quiet." The album concludes with "New World" which was the number that played as the credits rolled. The song has a laid back trip-hop beat and a vocal melody that attempts to provide some relief for the devastating final scene the audience has just experienced. I remember how hard it was to force myself to watch the end of this film, and Bjork's music is highly competent at each juncture in helping the viewer feel and understand. It is pretty impressive stuff and moreso if you've seen the film.

For some reason I'll never understand, Bjork chose to leave the desperately emotional "Next to Last Song" off of the album. This is the unaccompanied vocal Selma clings to in order to remove herself from her body as she faces the fear of death. It's also the last words of a mother to her son. If you've seen the film you know how powerful the scene is. Dropping the track was a huge mistake on someone's part. An odd little album, mostly for fans, but still quite good.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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