December 12 — “Possibly Maybe” by Björk


If you only listen to one song tonight, make it a couple of different versions of “Possibly Maybe” by Björk. The original version was on the 1995 album Post.

You don’t need to be told who Björk is or where she comes from or any of that. I’ll skip that formality.

Back in the early 1990s, I liked The Sugarcubes, but thought that they would be better if Björk went solo. I got my wish, and for about 10 years, she was very high on my list of “favorite bands”. The weirder and weirder she got with the passage of time, the less and less I loved her. While I used to line up at the record store for a midnight sale of her new albums, I never even bothered to get her 2011 album Biophilia.

Tonight’s song originally appeared on her second (and most brilliant) album, Post. She re-did it for the remix album Telegram (1996), and she released a stunning “strings” version of the song on her 2002 boxed set Family Tree. It’s probably appeared on a couple of other remix records, but those are the ones that I have. That “strings” version is my favorite.

I’ll start with that version. From the fourth disc of the six-disc set.
“Possibly Maybe (Strings)” by Björk

I love the creepiness of the violins and cello. It makes it sound much darker. Scary, actually. For all the shrieking and growling that she often does, the stringed instruments do it for her here, and it’s really fantastic.

And now the album version
“Possibly Maybe” by Björk

So the song is about the amazingly happy times of a romantic relationship just getting started, all the way to the frustrations of the relationship ending.

In the beginning, she lets her guard down and takes a chance on this guy:

As much as I definitely enjoy solitude
I wouldn’t mind perhaps
Spending a little time with you

Possibly maybe, probably love

Uncertainty excites me
Who knows what’s going to happen
Lottery or car crash
Or you’ll join a cult

And then the subtle flip of the lyric. Less hopeful.

Probably maybe, possibly love

That’s the only time in the song that it’s flipped like that.

There’s been some passage of time. They’ve been together for a while, and there’s starting to be some uneasiness in the relationship. Her lover is unpredictable and violent, like a volcano. She’s riding it out, though:

Mon petit vulcan
You’re eruptions and disasters
I keep calm
Admiring the lava
I keep calm

Possibly maybe, probably love

Electric shocks
I love them
With you, a dozen a day
But after a while I wonder
Where’s the love you promised me?

And then, it’s over. She’s had enough:

How can you offer me love like that?
My heart is burned
How can you offer me love like that
I’m exhausted
Leave me alone
Possibly maybe, probably love

In the album version there’s some vinyl crackling added to the mix. Guitars and keyboards rule the day, but there’s a brilliant pedal steel at 3:32 that makes the whole thing worth it.

I’ve never cared for the vocoder-heavy dance remix that appeared on Telegram, so I won’t include it here. However, I’ve got something special up my sleeve.

A couple of years ago, Stereogum curated a track-for-track tribute to Post. They invited twelve bands to participate by covering one song per band. 2006 Polaris Music Prize-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett, sometimes known as Final Fantasy, did “Possibly Maybe”. Ed Droste from Grizzly Bear contributed the vocals while Pallett did everything else.

“Possibly Maybe” as covered by Final Fantasy (featuring Ed Droste)

I like the way that Pallett got a bit creative with his violin playing, and also with the guitar bits. I don’t think there’s as much emotion in Droste’s vocals, but it’s still a really good cover. The whole tribute is pretty nice. And it’s free!

Download the Stereogum tribute —Enjoyed:A Tribute to Björk’s Post— from this page

The six-disc Family Tree (one CD and five mini-discs) comes in an annoying snap-case. Once you take the items out of the pink opaque case, it’s almost impossible to get everything back in. That said, it’s a really neat package and worth having. Worth $95 USD? I don’t know about that. But if you can find a physical copy and you can get past the fact that there are mini-discs and you can get past the fact that it’s really tricky to re-pack, I suggest buying one. Here’s what they have in the amazon store.

You can get Post here. It’s been re-issued in dual-disc format with some DVD features, but my understanding is that you’re better off sticking with the original release and buying the video compilations separately. That’s what I’ve always done.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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