Poetic and Poignant

Vulnicura by Björk


If you know Björk, then you will know she is amazingly talented as a music producer, writer, performer, singer, and lyricist.  Her work never ceases to push new boundaries and challenge old assumptions about what music should sound like, and Vulnicura is no exception.

The overall themes are 1) a very classical, traditional, ethereal violin orchestral sound, balanced over 2) harmonic vocals wailing poetic lyrics supported by 3) electronic beats and sampled sounds.  The whole album tells a chronological story of a relationship and breakup that is “brutally honest”, as one colleague (who recommended the album) enthusiastically pointed out.

Admittedly, I tend to like music for the superficial, intangible qualities – if it makes me feel good and I enjoy it then I just happily move along, without questioning it too much.  For this album I was personally challenged to read the lyrics, so I pulled the liner notes from the sleeve, and…. I was completely sucked in.  I felt like I was reading a (poignant and non-annoying) book of poetry!  I was suddenly compelled to do an internet search about Björk’s relationship and figure out who was this guy, who was this daughter, what was this rift that tore them apart…

In my search I learned more about the album’s two co-producers, and again I was blown away by the sheer wealth of talent and intelligence present in the stories of these two men.  According to Wikipedia (which could always be just fancy lies), Haxan Cloak is an artist who got his start recording his own instrumental samples in his parent’s shed; and Arca has already presented at MoMa PSI and worked on a Kanye album.  Intriguing, to say the least!

My favorite song on the album is “Atom Dance”, because even though it has a slow and melodramatic start, it eventually weaves into an energetic yet silken wave of song, with lots of pizzicato strings (that at times, fall into sharp, robotic beats).  Another one I really like is “Mouth Mantra”, because it is one of the most electronic and percussive on the album.  My least favorite is “History of Touches” because I am a cynic and it is just too romantic – also it seems to take Björk a really long time to verbalize her intent and get her point across.  Otherwise (or should I say musically, instead of verbally) it is completely fine, and I don’t lose too much patience – the organ chords give the piece sunny bursts of energy that are interesting.

The icing on the cake is that there is a special exhibit this month at the MOMA in NYC dedicated to Björk and her music, with certain features specifically highlighting this exquisite album. I cannot wait to go check it out, and I encourage you to do the same if you get the chance!

While my favorite Björk songs will always be “Big Time Sensuality” from Debut and “Army of Me” from Post, there is something about the sophistication and essential ability showcased on Vulnicura that I cannot ignore, and I simply have to respect.  Whether you are a Björk fan or not, please check this out and prepare to be very impressed.

Link to Preview Tracks on Google Play:


Link to Purchase Album on Amazon:


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