This Bjork article was written by Jessica Otterwell, a GIGsoup contributor
This is exciting. This is exhilarating. Those were the first thoughts that struck me when listening to Bjork’s Vulnicura, her ninth album as a solo performer. At the point I made those assessments, I was two minutes into the first track, Stonemilker. The reason I was so excited was this was a return to the Icelandic singer’s previous sound on 1997’s Homogenic. Present again are the lush orchestral string arrangements and Bjork’s voice, with its almost otherworldly range set against a backdrop of beats pulsating from her laptop as though it were her beating heart.
That’s just the thing; this album is Bjork’s heart, on your stereo, in your ears, on your record player, on a plate. ‘All that matters is who is open hearted,’ she professes in the chorus of the six minute opening track, and with that one line she sets the theme for the entire album. She is opening her heart and it has broken, she is letting the fragments bend and break for you as a listener to devour.
The album is in equal parts stark and uncomfortable as it is swoon some and inviting but that’s just the point. It documents the breakdown of a relationship. The first two tracks are where the cracks appear, something’s not right and Bjork knows that but on Lionsong she clings vainly to the hope that, ‘maybe he will come out of this loving me’. It’s a lie and she knows it.
Vulnicura is where we rediscover the vulnerability that was so present in her previous albums, not just Homogenic but 1993’s Debut and 1995’s Post, because beneath the throbbing beats and sweeping arrangements, lyrically there is pain. Bjork may have matured as a songwriter but emotionally she still has the power to make you feel unnerved with a single line and shredding of a violin. History of Touches marks a change of pace for the album and the narrative, things are broken now, the beats are darker, muddier (not least the influence of working with The Haxan Cloak, whose style is the perfect fit). Every vocal is begging and isolated. Nearing the end of the album Antony Hegarty collaborates for a second time, on the track Atom Dance, which nothing short of stunning. From the production to the collaboration, this is heartbreak and recovery at its finest.
‘Vulnicura’ is out now on One Little Indian / Wellhart