Vulnicura, Björk’s first album since her 2011 effort Biophilia, is an emotional and ambitious work for the illustrious singer and multi-instrumentalist and is one of her best works in some time. The album is filled with heartbreaking lyrics and stories coupled with detailed and lush instrumentals. The production credits are bolstered by collaborations with electronic producers the Haxan Cloak and Arca, giving the album a unique feel that has drawn to comparisons to her earlier work, namely 1997’s Homogenic and 2001’s Vespertine. While these are fitting comparisons to make, Vulnicura will undoubtedly become a distinguished album in Björk’s expansive discography and should be remembered as one of her best works to date.
The album opens with the atmospheric, emotional ballad “Stonemilker”. It’s a beautiful song, filled with compelling strings and spacey percussion and is an amazing start to the album. These lush strings continue throughout the album, and are particularly beautiful on the ten minute opus “Black Lake”. The song is the saddest piece on such a heartbreaking album, and is characterized by two distinct halves. The first part of the song is minimal, mostly featuring just vocals, strings, and a sparse beat. Near the five minute mark, more percussion and a subtle change in tempo are added and continue to swell before returning to its starting pace and style.
The following track, “Family”, is a dark, ambient work that serves as a great contrast to the album’s previous four tracks. It’s rather eerie, featuring dark synths and a heavy, atmospheric beat, as well as containing one of the more interesting song structures on the album, with an abrupt addition of staccato strings and a very tense feel.
Vulnicura expertly mixes organic, string filled songs with a few electronically-tinged works, such as the tracks “History of Touches” and “Quicksand”. “History of Touches” is a very minimalistic track, featuring just Björk and a bed of abstract synths. While it may not be one of the best tracks on the album, it adds much needed variety on the album. “Quicksand” is a low point on the album, mostly due to its placement as the album’s final track. It’s a light, electronic track that falls short of the emotional weight of the tracks that precede it. It may be the brightest point on such a bleak album, but it feels to short and too underdeveloped lyrically to conclude the project.
As with all of her releases, Björk fills every track with compelling and emotional lyrics, from the dark and desperate themes of the song “Notjet” to the metaphorical “Lionsong”, where Björk compares settling a dispute with her lover to taming a lion and hopes that he will “come out of this loving me”. The album’s more subdued instrumentals give Björk’s voice ample room to fill the tracks with emotion and beautiful melodies. In the case of any Björk album, her vocal and lyrical style may seem too different for some listeners, but those who really give the musician a chance will be rewarded with such striking musical works. Vulnicura is yet another superb album in Björk’s discography, and is one of 2015’s best releases so far.
Standout Tracks: “Black Lake”, “Stonemilker”, “Family”