Björk – Vulnicura
There’s a iron-clad law that the more convoluted an album’s release, the less interesting the music will be. Björk’s career fits this law perfectly. Over the years she has become more and more difficult to miss, but easier and easier to ignore. Was Biophilia an album, or a polymedia happening? Who knows? My download speed was just too slow. For once, then, thanks to a rushed release because of an internet leak, it’s a relief just to sit down and listen to a bunch of Björk’s songs and worry about nothing but the music. And, do you know what? It’s great. Difficult, but great. This is Björk’s break up album. Built around nothing but strings and a sequencer, the music follows the path of the relationship. The opening track (dated nine months before) is the easiest on the ear. The strings are lush, even if lyrically questions are starting to be asked. By the time we arrive at track four (two months after), the strings are stabbing and snarling. Industrial sounds blurt out. The pain is palpable. “My soul torn apart”, she sings, “My spirit is broken”. By track five (six months after) she’s looking for solutions at least. And on track six (eleven months after) the music has calmed down a little and she admits that “If I regret us, I’m denying my soul to grow”. It may not be a resolution, but at least it’s an acknowledgement that the best way is forward. Which brings us to the last three tracks. Undated, it’s not clear where and whether they fit into the story. Yet surely they do. Track 7 with Antony Hegarty is full of sadness, but at one point there’s a caesura followed by hints of a fresh start. And the final track is very different musically, much more skittery, suggesting new directions. Seemingly, Vulnicura was scheduled to tie in with a new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as well as a book about her career to date. We’re lucky to be free from these distractions. It’s an album best listened to unadorned. And in that context it’s surely one of the best break-up albums of modern times.