New discs from Leslie Feist, Barbra Streisand, and Bjork.
Björk – Volta (Elektra): During her career, Björk has always opted for the road less traveled. Of late, though, she's really gotten off the beaten path, pioneering a visionary form of contemporary music that is singularly unique. Whereas the fashion upstart's previous album, "Medúlla," relied solely on the human voice to mimic unconventional instruments and beats, "Volta" finds Björk creating filigreed textures with the Chinese pipa, a West-African Kora, and a 10-piece brass band from the singer's native Iceland. But the musical landscaping doesn't come together as a unified whole, as it did on 2001's "Vespertine" – one of the decade's finest records. Here, uptempo tracks rely on blustery electronica and military-stomp rhythms – some courtesy of name-brand producer Timbaland – but the results are more chaotic than melodic. "Vertebrae by Vertebrae," whose stabs of brass recall a suspense scene in a Bond film, is thrilling, however, and the quieter, contemplative half of the album is unfailingly beautiful as Björk's yearning soprano soars on "I See Who You Are" and "My Juvenile."
– Stephen Humphries