Björk Volta

In contemporary popular music, no one has done more than this Icelandic goddess to merge the avant-garde with the accessible, a trend that continues on her fabulous new album, Volta. Following the more experimental, vocal-oriented compositions of 2004’s Medúlla, Volta brings back her stunning vision for backing tracks, ranging from the Cage-like foghorns that open "Wanderlust” to a marching brass band that meshes with programmed beats and off-kilter sounds. Describing Björk always comes off weirder than it is, but Volta is her best and most accessible work since the masterpieces Homogenic and Vespertine. In Antony (of the Johnsons), Björk has found quite possibly her greatest duet partner; like a more tuneful and beautiful Mike Patton (who helped out with Medúlla), Antony fits in just being himself, not needing to adapt to her vision of the universe. The Volta title is a little ironic – it means a single, repeating passage of music – because these tunes are less dependent on dance floor repetition than nearly anything in her recent discography. Each tune establishes a distinct sonic identity, while familiarity with her modus operandi makes nothing seem overly unusual. She’s built the biggest, and most open musical sandbox in the music world, and collaborators (including Konono #1, Timbaland, kora player Toumani Diabate and Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale) are just thrilled to be asked for a play date. (Elektra)