Record Routine: Björk’s legacy of creating her own unique sound continues in new album

Anthony Sanders and Hailing from Iceland, Björk is the original “melancholy hipster singing chick,” a group of artists also inhabited by such stars as Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs, and SZA. Her most recent release, Vulnicura, takes a page out of the book of modern pop music by arriving on the doorstep of many fans without much warning.

A staple in avant-garde women’s vocals for three decades, Björk does not disappoint with this new release. Instead, she advances past some of her greatest work on past projects like Homogenic and Medúlla, most notably with the staples of Vulnicura, the painful “Lionsong” and dancing electronic touch of “Quicksand.”

By employing the frequent Kanye West collaborator, Arca, as lead producer on Vulnicura, Björk takes an artful step past most of the down-tempo, independent vocalists that seem so common these days. One can even say that Arca’s work on Björk’s eighth studio album is what truly shines through and gives this album its crisp edges and shiny layers. His production style is immediately recognizable, with the awkward gaps, ugly noises, and thrashing percussion that combine to create a beautiful, non-symmetrical symphony.

Halfway through Vulnicura, Björk and Arca hand listeners a difficult, yet rewarding, stretch of songs. “Black Lake” and “Family” retain the minimalist approach that is so common in critically appraised music today. Ambient sound, distant and industrial percussion as well as Björk’s creeping vocals make for experimental gold throughout the central few tracks.

To complete the story of Icelandic heartbreak, Arca creates a meandering track in “Mouth Mantra” that feels so distant, yet is brought back down to Earth by Björk’s macabre vocals. Vulnicura bids listeners farewell with “Quicksand,” mentioned earlier as a highlight of the album. Produced by Björk herself, this track exemplifies the chaotic direction in which electronic music is heading, then miraculously groups this sound with her slow female vocals. The lyrics describe this contrast perfectly, “I am broken when I’m whole; when I’m whole, I am broken.” An intriguing metaphor for love, no?

While Björk’s Vulnicura does not overshadow her past work, it unquestionably shows that Bjork is leading the movement, after starting it herself.

Grade: B

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