Björk – Vulnicura One Little Indian Records, 2015

I realised a couple of years ago that I quite like Björk. Of course, I only realised this after I had already accidentally collected every one of her non-soundtrack albums. This is the kind of weird situation I find myself in sometimes when I buy more records than I can actually absorb in reasonable time.

Vulnicura is a dark and personal album about love, divorce, the breakup of a family, and the most absolute form of existentialist separation. On paper, it seems like one of Björk’s least accessible albums, with only two of its nine tracks running less than 6 minutes, and each of them bearing only the vaguest semblance of pop song structure. The metaphor of a broken life is manifest in the music, which is dissembled and slowly pieced back together in various configurations one after another, in a desperate search to find cohesion, and perhaps a way forward.

That being said, the album does feature the familiar electronic/orchestral hybridisation that has become her signature. There’s plenty of little explosions of jittery beats and electronic bloops dancing around a haunting string section that, with only a couple of exceptions, is the core of proceedings throughout. It’s all very neoclassical.

It’s refreshing how nakedly emotional Vulnicura is – from its controversial and rather on-the-nose artwork depicting Björk with a gaping vaginal chest wound, to the brutally frank lyrics and vocal performances, to the intricately arranged strings.

If you want Björk’s quirky electronic pop music, this maybe isn’t the album to go to. While it’s not a difficult listen, it doesn’t exactly make things easy. Vulnicura is a deeply personal piece of work, but if you’re willing to engage with it, you’ll find it’s one of the most interesting and cohesive moments in her entire career.

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