By Sidney Roy, Indie Aisle Host
Two years following the release of “Vulnicura,” Björk, now 48, is still discovering herself.
The Icelandic singer-songwriter’s follow-up to 2015’s “Vulnicura” explores finding new love after heartbreak and loneliness addressed in her previous album. Björk’s 2015 album documented the depths of isolation she felt following her separation with longtime boyfriend Matthew Barney.
Continuing the narrative from “Vulnicura,” she bares her own personal life, contrary to her past releases which cover abstract themes. The result is “Utopia,” a deeply intimate account of someone who has finally healed from a broken relationship, and is ready to accept love again.
“Utopia” hones in on the small details of a new relationship unfolding. Listeners may often find themselves in the singer’s shoes as she sings about today’s courting rituals, like “sending each other MP3s, falling in love to a song.”
Björk has a history of collaborating with a variety of musicians and producers on each album, and “Utopia” is no exception. This time she enlisted the help of Venezuelan producer Arca, who also worked on “Vulnicura.” This time, however, he was present for the entire process of creating the album, and even co-wrote five tracks.
The album also features an ensemble of 12 Icelandic flautists, who appear on every track. The flute music was composed, arranged, and conducted by Björk herself. The tracks float over these flute arrangements and, rarely is there a steady, anchored beat.
The ethereal vocals heard throughout the album were contributed by the Icelandic Hamrahlid choir, of which Björk was a member growing up.
While the entire album is a hit, the theme of healing and moving on after a breakup if best captured in the opening lines of “The Gate.”
“My healed chest wound, turned into a gate, where I receive love from, where I give love from.”
Even with this first single, Björk made it clear that she was departing from the dark space that shrouded her last album.
As the music’s mood turns away from the void “Vulnicara” provided, listeners see Björk undergo an emotional rebirth. Ample lyrics about new crushes and a newfound lust for life resemble the intimate details of a teenage diary.
With her ninth studio album, Björk’s music is equally spellbinding, raw, and intimate as acclaimed classics like “Post” and “Vespertine.” “Utopia” holds its own against these older releases by creating something that’s even drastically different from her last album.