tue 16/01/2018

CD: Björk - Vulnicura | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Björk - Vulnicura

CD: Björk - Vulnicura

The queen of alt-pop is courageously wrought rather than radical

A belief in music's healing power is the driving force of Vulnicura

“How will I sing us out of this sorrow?" Björk wails over jagged cello arpeggios, six songs into her string quartet-led break-up album Vulnicura. Though heartbreak may be the theme most often stewed and chewed up by singer-songwriters, optimism - a belief in music's healing power - is the driving force of this nine-track record.

Though we might wish Björk cried iridescent neon tears, the album's emotions are familiar enough to imagine her your snotty chapped-cheeked self. Albeit psychologically twisted by an accompaniment of legato strings that collide erratically with squelching beats. "Lionsong" opens with an a cappella trio of panning vowels - "maybe he will come out of this loving me" - reminiscent in some ways of Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek". It shows that the numerous alt-pop singers who echo Björk's legacy have caught up with her this time, when issues of the heart - rather than innovation - are the core of the compositions.

"History of Touches" is the last hopefully nostalgic track for a while. Lines like "Every single fuck we had together/Is in a wondrous time lapse” float amidst jabbing synth chords. The song flutters out into digital pops and the tone darkens as the video diary structure descends into grunge.  On "Black Lake" a drooping Purcell-esque minor march grumbles beneath images of pulsating wounds, apocalypse and drowning. In "Family" Björk shakes the image of a broken family in the face of her lover (composer and father of her child, Matthew Barney) over a collage of sounds like fabric ripping away from a wall. And as the wonky organ riff in "Notget" trails off, a whispered cry of "deaaaaaath" fades away into silence like the final tail of reverb on heavy metal vocals.

Despite the influence of Chilean electro producer Arca, there’s a deliberate evasion of entrancing beats for the majority of the album. The mind stays focused instead on the Keatsian "glut thy sorrow" lyrics, but is never dragged under by melancholy, even when Anthony Hegarty joins on backing vocals. Instead their duet, moving in octaves, sounds as hopeful as a young teenager’s fantasy. Vulnicura is not Björk at her most radical, but will surely become a cherished aide to many in moments of emotional collapse.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Lionsong"

Though we might wish Björk cried iridescent neon tears, the album's emotions are familiar enough to imagine her your snotty chapped-cheeked self

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters