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Baker's Dozen

Languages Inhabited: Teju Cole's Favourite Albums
Teju Cole , August 24th, 2016 09:28

Following the publication of his first collection of essays, Known And Strange Things, the writer and photographer pens us his own Baker's Dozen, picking "as many kinds of albums that really mattered to me as possible"


Björk – Vespertine
A cold morning. Someone is scraping snow outside. The massive icicle-harpoons from the dream I was having now hang glistening from the eaves of the house. These are the visions and sounds that Vespertine bring me every winter. An album for the witchy dark season when nothing grows and a distant light struggles. Vespertine, full of unusual sounds, is like one of those contemporary Nordic restaurants that feed their clients marvels gathered from the wild: it has a smallness and far-fetched quality, and an intensity that translates that smallness into epic scale.

Like Thom Yorke, Björk has a peculiar voice, thin and ragged, and almost on the edge of preciousness. It's certainly an acquired taste. And even after the acquisition, you ask yourself: "Why have I acquired this?" I don't like every song by Björk, but I love all of them. The ones I like, I like more than anyone else's songs, because she's a living classic, and there are at least six such on the album Vespertine (I'm about to list them), six songs I'd take over any six on a single album by The Beatles or The Rolling Stones or Sex Pistols or even The Smiths or, fuck it, Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell: 'Hidden Place', 'Cocoon', 'It's Not Up To You', 'Aurora', 'Heirloom' and the ecstatic, soul-expanding final track of the album, 'Unison', which I once played at top volume in the jeep in which we were racing late one afternoon from Thingvellir towards the glacier of Langjökull, never to be forgotten.