What’s in the bag? (25)

Björk – Vulnicura. This is the ninth studio album by Björk. It was produced by Björk, Arca and The Haxan Cloak, and released on 20 January 2015 by One Little Indian Records. Björk allegedly said the album expresses her feelings following her breakup with artist Matthew Barney (For whom she created the soundtrack to the film ‘Drawing Restraint 9).

You may recall that Vulnicura was originally scheduled for release in March, in conjunction with the Björk: Archives book and an exhibition about Björk’s career at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Unfortunately, following an internet leak, it was released digitally two months early.

I first heard tracks from Vulnicura on the ‘Sound Opinions’ podcast and I was somewhat disappointed in myself, as I didn’t make up my own opinion, which I would usually do, and just accepted theirs. This is not to say they were wrong, but having now listened to the entire album, my opinion differs. The long and short of it is that this is a much better album than I was expecting. I had also heard another track on the ‘All Songs Considered’ podcast and that actually raised my expectations shortly before hearing the whole album. The song in question was ‘Atom Dance’, on which Björk is accompanied by Antony Heggarty, which I thought spectacular. Having now listened to the album as a whole, I do think it is probably her best work since ‘Vespertine’. Admittedly, there are no pop hits included and the tone is generally dark and brooding, as one would expect when dealing with difficult subject matter, although album closer, ‘Quicksand’ is rather upbeat tempo wise. The quality of the songs themselves shines through regardless of the mood and the track sequencing does cause the listening experience to have a sense of there having been a journey.

My version comes in a gatefold sleeve which is cased in an acetate slipcase, it really is a beautiful thing. The acetate links with the moving album cover, which was backed by the track ‘Family’, although this is 8:09 in length rather than the 2:35 included in the first video below. I suppose it was a teaser as much as anything and the first single release proper, ‘Lionsong’, also below, is a beautiful track that discusses her feelings some 5 months before they finally split up and captures the sense of a moment when a relationship breaks down. Specifically when you just want it to end so that you can move on. The lyrics are rather oddly constructed, but many of Bjorks are;

Maybe he will come out this
Maybe he won’t
Somehow I’m not too bothered either way

Maybe he will come out of this loving me
Maybe he will come out of this
I smell declarations of solitude
Maybe he will come out of this

Vietnam vet comes after the war
Lands in my house
This wild lion doesn’t fit in this chair

Maybe he will come out of this loving me
Maybe he won’t
I’m not taming no animal
Maybe he will come out of this

Once it was simple, one feeling at a time
It reached this peak then transformed
This abstract complex feeling
I just don’t know how to handle when
Should I throw oil on one of these wounds
But which one?
The joy peak
Humor peak
Frustration peak
Anything peak for clarity

Maybe he will come out of this loving me
Maybe he won’t
I’m not taming no animal
Maybe he will come out of this

Maybe he will come out of this
Maybe he won’t
Somehow I’m not too bothered either way

I refuse, it’s a sign of maturity
To be stuck in complexity
I demand all clarity

Maybe he will come out of this
Or he will feel so solitaire
Somehow I’m not too bothered
I’d just like to know

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Tracklist:
Stonemilker
Lionsong
History of Touches
Black Lake
Family
Notget
Atom Dance
Mouth Mantra
Quicksand

Listening now, with a decent set of headphones, I can say that, sonically, this is beautifully constructed collection of songs. It is string laden, but also contains the sort of beats one would expect from Bjork. It has been described in one review as operatic, and I’d agree with that even though I find much opera to be impenetrable. This is not, it is open, and it is often uncomfortable and has a deep feeling of sadness, but it is not without hope. This is the journey through the nine tracks, from realisation to release and I do think that there is a positive feeling at the end of the album.

It isn’t available on Spotify as yet but below are some official videos that are available, and, as usual, the visuals are lovely.

8.3/10

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