In 2015, Björk released her eighth album “Vulnicura,” which chronicled her life before, during and after her breakup with long-time partner, and father of her daughter, Matthew Barney.
Four years after her heartbreak, Björk bears a look of confidence on the cover of her 10th album, “Utopia.” This, combined with the flute clutched in her hand and the baby bird resting on her shoulder, perfectly encapsulate what’s in store on this record.
“Utopia” is somewhat of a sister album to “Vulnicura,” as the former continues and adds a new chapter to the story started in the latter.
The album’s opener, “Arisen My Senses” begins with the twittering of birds, juxtaposed with a splash of futuristic synths, before a set of punchy strings and bass accompany layers of Björk’s voice as she sings about her readiness to move on: “With love / awaken my senses. / Just that kiss / once again / was all there is.”
As she did on “Vulnicura,” Björk partnered with Venezuelan electronic artist, Arca, who also put out an amazing self-titled album last year, to produce “Utopia.”
The production on this album is one of its greatest strengths. Arca’s off-kilter style of electronic music pairs perfectly with Björk’s voice.
While bliss, personal growth and acceptance are some of “Utopia’s” major themes, that’s not to say Björk is 100 percent content or optimistic at this point in her life.
On the song “Sue Me,” Björk directly addresses her former partner who sued her for the custody of their daughter – “Sue me all you want / I won’t denounce her origin.”
Arca’s production really shines through with a driving bassline of manipulated vocal samples and glitchy snares that beautifully mirror Björk’s anguish.
The continuation of the concept started in “Vulnicura” comes to a blissful conclusion with the album’s closing track, “Future Forever.” Björk asks listeners to imagine an ideal world – a Utopia, as she sings, “Imagine a future and be in it / feel this incredible nurture, soak it in. … See this possible future and be in it.”
Björk imagines and creates a futuristic world that seamlessly incorporates nature and technology. Arca beautifully represents this with the implementation of sterile, futuristic synths and sampled animal noises – ranging from birds to big cats – on a handful of the tracks on the record.
The one thing I can fault this album for is some of the songs are far too long. One of the album’s lead singles, “The Gate,” lasts nearly seven minutes. There’s nothing wrong with long songs, but the track must do something interesting enough to warrant that length. Unfortunately, “The Gate” and a couple other songs simply devolve into repetition.
“Utopia” serves as a beautiful entry in Björk’s career, and is proof that even after 41 years of making music, she shows no signs of slowing down.