bjork9. Björk
Vulnicura
[One Little Indian]

Breakup songs aren’t reserved only for the Taylor Swift generation. With her ninth album, Vulnicura (meaning “cure for wounds”), Björk composes some of the most powerful music of her lengthy career. The end of a relationship can often prompt a person (inimitable artist or not) to return to their roots, and Vulnicura finds Björk tapping into the same approach that made 1997’s Homogenic so notable—namely, that emotive strings are interwoven with electronic beats in a way that’s both sparse and lush, traditional and postmodern.

Co-produced by Arca and the Haxan Cloak, and described by Björk as dealing with “the dialogues we have in our heads and our hearts, the healing processes,” Vulnicura follows the Icelandic singer’s tortured thoughts from before and after her breakup with longtime partner (and father of one of her children), artist Matthew Barney.

bjorkvThe album opens with a gentle search for common ground in “Stonemilker,” where Björk sings of attempts to find “mutual coordinates” and a wish to “synchronize our feelings.” That relationship unravels quickly by “Lionsong,” with the singer still reserving hope that “maybe he will come out of this loving me.” By the sprawling, 10-minute “Black Lake,” despair sets in as bonds are broken and wounds cut open. Björk sings of her soul torn apart, her spirit broken, and likewise “Family” plays like a dirge in which she literally mourns the death of her happy home. From there, the album explores the aftermath, with the glitchy “Mouth Mantra” expounding on helplessness through graphic imagery laced with the slightest twinge of catharsis before the voluminous punctuation of “Quicksand.” Björk’s most powerful album in decades, Vulnicura heals by staring into the cold expanse of an emotional abyss and fearlessly breathing it all in. – Josh Goller

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