‘Vulnicura’ Review

By Brier Stucky

Vulnicura, Björk’s first album since her 2011 effort Biophilia, is an emotional and ambitious work for the singer and multi-instrumentalist and is one of her best works in some time. The album is filled with heartbreaking lyrics coupled with detailed and lush instrumentals. The production credits are bolstered by collaborations with electronic producers Haxan Cloak and Arca, giving the album a unique feel that has drawn comparisons to her earlier work, namely 1997’s Homogenic and 2001’s Vespertine. While these are fitting comparisons, 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 and 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 a heartbreaking album and is characterized by two distinct halves. The first part of the song is minimal, mostly featuring vocals, strings, and a sparse beat. Near the five minute mark, more percussion and a subtle change in tempo swell before returning to its original pace and style.        
       The following track, “Family”, is a dark, ambient work that contrasts with the album’s previous tracks. It’s rather eerie, featuring dark synths and a heavy, atmospheric beat, as well as containing one of the more abstract song structures on the album, with an abrupt addition of staccato strings and a tense feel. 
      Vulnicura expertly mixes organic, string filled songs with electronically-tinged works, such as “History of Touches” and “Quicksand”. “History of Touches” is a minimalistic track, featuring 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. “Quicksand” is the low point on the album, mostly due to its placement as the album’s final track. It’s light and electronic, falling 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 lyrically underdeveloped 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 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 give the musician a chance will be rewarded with striking works. Vulnicura is yet another superb album in Björk’s discography and is one of 2015’s best releases so far.

Verdict

Great

Björk returns in a grand fashion with the beautiful and emotional Vulnicura.
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Positives

  • Emotional lyrics & instrumentals
  • Detailed & experimental production
  • “Black Lake” & “Stonemilker”

Negatives

  • “Quicksand” does not conclude the album well