Vulnicura by Bjork (One Little Indian)
I don’t remember an album or even a single song where Bjork has sounded quite so vulnerable. She’s had a few contemplative albums but nothing matches her delivery on Lionsong where strings and percussive electronics dance around her melodious yet pained voice like the despair and uncertainty she relates in the lyrics.
After a breakup from a relationship of 12 years Bjork documents the leadup to the end and the aftermath in the lyrics sheet, snapshots of universal feelings told in a way only Bjork could communicate. She’s always taken her own approach to music, fashion and in presenting herself as a commodity, a statement and on Vulnicura she bares her soul more than ever, her string arrangements echoing the forlornly sad moments as well as the hesitantly optimistic ones. And all the electronic guys, in this case Arca, do the same exact thing: juxtaposing often harsh mechanical noises, skittering beats and bass pulses against the more feminine aspects of her voice and strings. On Black Lake the strings swell and dip, a bouyant bass line jumps in for a minute giving hope to a more direct rhythm, then drops out, electronics return in a more chaotic jumble, running roughshod over Bjork’s impassioned crooning and trilling. She sings “My soul torn apart/ My spirit is broken/ Into the fabric of all/ He is woven.” This is two months after the breakup. Family is half manic and painful, sawed strings and jumbled percussive bumps give rise in the second half to angelic washes of synths and gauzy sighs proving that the lowest point is over, the weight is lifted, the healing can begin. The listener just might find themselves tearing up over the intensity of the moment.
Atom Dance, as weird as it is, sounds more accessible, starting slowly with plucked strings and light beat, winding up into a sensual groove in a pleasant way, then halfway through Antony Hegarty joins in, his voice tweaked into a chant, the rhythm and beat tightening around us like supportive arms, leading us to optimism and hope. On Quicksand electronic musician Spaces lets loose with a cathartic drum and bass loop, vivid synths flitter around, bolstering Bjork’s voice, more certain and stronger then ever before.
By giving us a peak into her vulnerability and emotions on Vulnicura Bjork gifts us with her most mature and brave musical collection to date.
Vulnicura is out now via iTunes and will be physically released this March. If you’re in NYC during March, April and June, Bjork will be playing several shows in your fine city, you lucky fans! Tickets are likely sold out at the time of this review being posted.
(by Bret Miller)