BY: MARISOL SAMAYOA
Björk isn’t the artist you listen to when you want a good heartbreak song to wallow in; she’s an artist that thrives on the abstract detached from the “exchange of human emotions.” But in her ninth studio album, Vulnicura, the fiercely private artist takes us into a new world with brutal lyrical honesty. The Icelandic singer recently parted ways with her partner of over a decade, avant-garde artist Matthew Barney, with whom they share a 12-year-old daughter. The “total heartbreak album,” as the singer labeled it on her official Facebook page, chronicles the birth and death of a disillusioned relationship. “Maybe he will come out of this. Maybe he won’t. Somehow I’m not too bothered, either way,” her voice pierces in the opening track “Lionsong” over the melancholy violin and cello. This track sets the tone for part one of the nine-song-long break up album. It details the nostalgia of a relationship once easy and now in a rut. In “History of Touches,” she slowly comes to terms with the fact that this may be the last time they will be intimate together. “Every single fuck we had together is in a wondrous time lapse…every single archive compressed into a second.”
Then things get dark.
“Is there a place where I can pay respects for the death of my family?” The skittering cello, quick violin and penetrating bass line in “Family,” the work of producer Haxan Cloak, enhances the agony she feels as she watches her family crumble before her eyes.
In the second part of the album, “Notget,” she embraces the serenity that comes with accepting pain. “If I regret us I’m denying my soul to grow. Don’t remove my pain. It is my chance to heal.” A third of the way through the album, her grief turns to anger with the 10-minute track “Black Lake.” This track is layered with synth and string textures and heavy bass as she indulges us in the turmoil of her relationship: betrayal, infidelity and abandonment. The strings and drone-esque bass escalate quickly as her speech intensifies midway. “Family was always our sacred mutual mission which you abandoned.”
The listener begins to question if Björk will ever come out of this, but her sorrow evolves in the third part of her album with the upbeat “Atom Dance” in which she lets “this ugly wound breathe" and begins to shed “dead layers of loveless love.”
The album ends with “Quicksand” in which she accepts her new reality and looks to the future. "We are the siblings of the sun. Let’s step into this beam. Every time you give up, you take away our future and my continuity—and my daughter’s, and her daughters, and her daughters," and then it ends abruptly.
Let it be clear: this is a heartbreak album, not a diss album. It is a woman slowly gaining clarity, coming to understand her painful, new truth. This album is immensely personal, almost like we’re reading ripped out pages from her diary. It’s a contrast from her previous work as the singer frequently grabs inspiration from nature, the cosmic and the environment as in her previous album Biophillia. The creative superwoman teaches us with this album that she is human with worries, pain and loss just like us. And if she can create something beautiful out of a painful journey, maybe we can too.