Best of 2015 So Far: Björk, ‘Vulnicura’

Translated from Latin to “Cure for Wounds,” Björk’s ninth studio album, Vulnicura, is her most humanizing work yet. Co-produced by Venezuelan newcomer Arca and UK ambient musician The Haxan Cloak, these 9 songs chronicle the demise of her marriage to artist Matthew Barney. Opening with a manifesto for emotional integrity (“Stonemilker”), followed by industrial-tinged numbers (“Lionsong”) and frenetic compositions (“Family”), the album sees Björk reverting back to the high orchestral drama of Homogenic and Vespertine. It climaxes at “Black Lake,” a 10-minute Dear John letter addressing a series of intimate grievances. “I am one wound,” she pronounces, “My pulsating body, suffering being.”

Most devastating about “Black Lake” are the grueling pauses between her every bullet point, searing with the hot, screeching hesitation of the string section, filling every vacant space with tempered moans. Having debuted at the Museum of Modern Art this past spring, the corresponding video sees Björk pounding violently at her own heart, as if to purge it from her chest. One can’t help but recall the eroticized self-destruction in her 2001 single, “Pagan Poetry,” recorded at the very start of her relationship with Barney. (“I love him / He makes me want to hurt myself.”) Love requires a constant upheaval and compromise of one’s identity; but Vulnicura sees Björk beginning to piece together what parts of herself survived the wreckage.

(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 7/2/2015)

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