Björk - Vulnicura
Yes it's that time of year; time for the albums of the year lists. Rough Trade's choice for the top of their list is the eighth studio album from Icelandic pixie Bjork.
So what's all the fuss about? With production duties shared between Venezuelan producer Arca and British musician The Haxan Cloak, Vulnicura carries all the hallmarks of a bonafide Björk album – a combination of the electronic and acoustic overlaid by the familiar groans and howls of the lady herself. It is, however, the first of her albums to make the electronic and the classical truly interchangeable – perfectly demonstrated by the recently released companion album Vulnicura Strings currently receiving notice due to the use of a Viola Organista (an instrument designed by Leonardo Da Vinci, but not built until after his lifetime). While the string arrangements on both versions are lush - swooping from the fragile melodies to the atonal - it is the electronic fizzes and cracks of the original release that truly make the songs come alive. Blending so perfectly with the lyrics and vocals that neither smothers the other to create a piece of work that manages to be both beautiful and brutal.
It’s the subject matter of the album that provides the biggest departure, in essence this is Björk's break-up-and-move-on record, charting the downfall of her relationship with artist Matthew Barney. Early tracks are subtitled ‘Five Months Before’ and ‘Two Months After’. Songs like ‘Lionsong’ depict the painful passive aggressive silence following an argument, lamenting “Maybe he will come out of this loving me”- hopeful but not convinced. Other highlights include opener ‘Stonemilker’, ‘Atom Dance’ (featuring Antony Hegarty), and album closer ‘Quicksand’ – “When we’re broken / We are whole”.
Vulnicura will not convert anyone, a Björk album being a Björk album; it's impossible to pigeonhole but immediately identifiable. However, if you have not listened to her since her Debut heyday then this is the most coherent and balanced blend of ideas, lyrics, and scope that the Icelander has produced of late. Album of the year? It's certainly a contender.