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Thread: SOTW: Pneumonia

  1. #1
    Cosmic Flavor Yo Jupiter's Avatar
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    SOTW: Pneumonia

    This has got to be one of the highest moments of Volta. To see it often being underrated or dismissed because it's somewhat difficult (which I did at first, too) makes me sad, because it's so majestic and so relatable, at least to me.

    The lyrics are pretty straightforward, but I'm gonna do my ''explanation'' anyway.
    First, what Björk herself said about it:

    “I had just seen ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and I had two weeks of pneumonia. It was really frustrating because I was trying to finish my album. I just had to sing one song and I had several choices of what would be the last song on the album. I try not to take antibiotics, but then I gave up after two weeks and took them and immediately got better. So, I went and saw the movie, came back home, and for the first time I wasn’t feeling quite as ill. I was feeling a little bit out of the thick of it. The song sort of came out of one take and ended up being that last song on the album. The album needed to go to that sort of emotional, soulful place.”
    I think of it as a very uplifting, self-help type of song, not in the structure or anything, but in the content. And by selfhelp not the cheesy pop kind, but the actual piece of art that can really strike you. The melody and mood fit the lyrics, they are very very sparse and somber at the beginning, accompanied by the sound of rain. During this part, she speaks to the ''girl'' (herself or anyone else for that matter) that is almost crippled by her shyness, disappointment or mistrust and is afraid to ''live life'', take risks, etc.

    The melody starts soaring when her pleas become stronger, more desperate, and again returns to the calmness at the end like a conclusion of sorts.

    I find it quite relatable because I'm often like that, not a social or extrovert person at all, kinda depressed and dealing with stuff, not really eager to ''get out there into the world'' so this song is really hitting the right spot with me, more than any other empowerment song there is. It's not giving empty advice, it's telling you how it is, the world is always going to be made of this, deal with it, because basically you'll miss out on so much.

    LYRICS



    This is a stellar live performance:

    Last edited by Yo Jupiter; 07-21-2014 at 01:09 PM.
    Не може со обични зборови да ја домами необичноста, зашто и необичните си имаат секој свој пат и тешко се среќаваат.

  2. #2
    condemned to wires and hammers ebby's Avatar
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    The brass is lovely and her vocal performance is rather emotive, but I do find the song a bit aimless and meandering. The lyrics are sweet and all, but I dunno, it feels like it's lacking something.

    Volta as a whole is the album I've gotten into least of all of Björk's work - though some individual songs I really do enjoy an awful lot. I don't find it as strong as her other albums. And this track does kinda feel a bit sort of half assed? And reading that it was put together so quickly after she had been ill, kinda explains that a lot.

    It sounds much stronger as a live track, perhaps because she gets to embellish and "finish" it a bit more live than she did in the short time to put it on record. But even still, it wouldn't be a song that I would usually highlight from her amazing body of work.

  3. #3
    the unhappy worker waitressboy's Avatar
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    And it's after I See Who You Are and Vertebrae By Vertebrae, so by the time the song starts you're already half asleep... And later is hope, which is the biggest, horriblest disaster Björk has ever made.
    The middle part of Volta is really hard to enjoy for me. Those four songs are impossible to get into one after the other. I can enjoy Vertebrae alone, but those four together? It's like Holographic Entrypoint on repeat while you're haven't a tooth pain.
    When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.

  4. #4
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    Great writeup YoJupiter. I adore this song. You described it very well.

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    I really like this song, it's one of my favourites from Volta, which is an album I don't think highly of. But "Pneumonia" is magical. I agree that it might be a bit meandering but to me it's all about the sound - the sorrowful French horns, her incredible vocals, the soft sound of rain in the background. The pauses, the subtle changes, the merging of brass and Björk's voice. It works as an incredibly beautiful and soulful ambient piece to me. I don't think about it in terms of narrative progression - I just revel in the way its sound makes me feel on a very physiological level. Oh, and I kind of like the lyrics.

    I agree that it suffers a bit because of its placement on the album - coming after "I See Who You Are" and "Vertebræ by Vertebræ", and being followed by "Hope" doesn't do it many favours. But while I really dislike those three songs, I adore "Pneumonia". It's a little gem in the mud.

    I wish she performed it more often back when she was touring with The Wonderbrass; I think that the video Yo Jupiter posted is the only performance of this song ever.

  6. #6
    Cosmic Flavor Yo Jupiter's Avatar
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    I actually really like the ''ISWYA - Vertebrae - Pneumonia - Hope'' stretch of songs. I agree that it's too much when listening through the album, and that the songs should've been broken down and ordered differently, but as I listen to albums on shuffle more often, I like all those songs individually. They're quite difficult, but once you get them, they become so magical! Even Hope, I'm definitely a pro-Hope fan, but that's all for another SOTW
    Не може со обични зборови да ја домами необичноста, зашто и необичните си имаат секој свој пат и тешко се среќаваат.

  7. #7
    Only knows desire. Perky Compson's Avatar
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    This is quite possibly my favorite Björk song. The lyrics are Björk at her best, IMO - there's still a stilted child-like element to them, but the imagery is so vivid ("your lungs are mourning TB-style") and the sentiment so fantastically expressed that it comes across as both sincere and wise. And her vocal on the "I adore how you simply surrender to high" bit is absolutely phenomenal.

    I want this tattooed on my body.

  8. #8
    holding on for tonight Waylon's Avatar
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    You know, I always forget about this song. As was mentioned before, there is that string of four substandard songs on Volta, but this one is considerably better. I think it should have been the first track on the album, because it worked so well as the opening song in the Reykjavik part of Voltaic Live. It's quite a gorgeous ballad, isn't it?
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  9. #9
    i've always loved Pneumonia,it is a great piece of art.It is so subtle with raining sound yet grand at the same time.I really like your interpretation too Jupiter,it really comes as a great message.And i really like the sequence I See Who You Are - Vertebrae - Pneumonia.A bit tedious maybe but totally captivating when i'm in the mood for it.
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  10. #10
    That's so Shakespearean... Canoodlefish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yo Jupiter View Post
    I actually really like the ''ISWYA - Vertebrae - Pneumonia - Hope'' stretch of songs. I agree that it's too much when listening through the album, and that the songs should've been broken down and ordered differently, but as I listen to albums on shuffle more often, I like all those songs individually. They're quite difficult, but once you get them, they become so magical! Even Hope, I'm definitely a pro-Hope fan, but that's all for another SOTW
    I've been playing Volta a lot lately and I have grown to like the difficult songs as well
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