Review Summary: In a word, cathartic.
Björk is an Icelandic singer-songwriter-musician. Vulnicura
is her 9th studio album. It was originally planned to be released in March but was pushed forward due to an online leak. It features co-production from Arca and The Haxan Cloak. It is a breakup album. And it is simply breathtaking.
“Stonemilker” begins the album on a high with its triumphant vocal melody. The combination of powerful, confrontational lyrics such as “Show me emotional respect / I have emotional needs” along with Björk’s distinct style of pronounced enunciation and crystalline vocals is, in a word, cathartic. Album centrepiece “Black Lake” employs the same formula over a gloomier arrangement of grand, sweeping strings – despite its morose lyrics, the song renders the listener in a 10-minute state of bliss.
Arca’s assistance in production is a major factor in the success of this album. His presence is most felt on the pairing of “Family” and “Notget”, with the urgent, staccato violins that drive the former resembling “Family Violence” from his 2014 album Xen
. Elsewhere, his influence is subtler – the chorus melody on album highlight “Lionsong” has a sexual, R&B-esque quality, resembling FKA Twigs’ debut record, the Arca-co-produced LP1
Arca and Björk both bring their A-game, and Vulnicura
is altogether a marriage of their two styles. This is most evident on album closer “Quicksand”, which is a drum-n-bass influenced almost-banger that is equal parts “Pluto” (from Björk’s Homogenic
) and “Bullet Chained” (from Xen
). Overall though, most of the credit has to be given to Björk herself. After all, it is her personal heartbreak that has spawned such a fantastic, timeless record. On that final track she sings, “When I’m broken I am whole”, and it is through her brokenness that she has created an album that is in equal parts a heartbreaking, magnificent, and timeless entity.