The provocative sleeve shot of Bjork’s tenth solo album Utopia features the Icelandic singer with what might kindly be described as “lady bits” attached to her forehead, writes Ed Power.
For those who prefer Bjork the pop star over Bjork the experimental artist-who-wants-to-give-you-a-headache, it is not a hopeful portent.
So it’s a pleasant surprise that the record is considerably more uplifting than her previous foray, 2015’s break-up lament Vulnicura. Assembled in the aftermath of her split from artist Matthew Barney that LP was an excruciating exercise in emotional flagellation — a suite of raw-veined dirges which, though well constructed, made for deeply queasy listening.
With Utopia, Bjork is learning to live life anew — imbuing the project with an engaging fragility and even naivety. She’s described it as her “Tinder” album and it is with palpable vulnerability that she sings about moving on from her previous relationship and starting over.
The palette she has chosen to soundtrack this latest chapter is a mix of whirring harpsichords, and twinkling beats — composed, as with Vulnicura, with Venezuelan producer Arca. The new approach yields charming results on single ‘Blissing Me’, a tender tiptoe through the emotional flower-beds that suggests a new age take on late 1990s Warp Records.
The theme continues with the gently insistent ‘Courtship’, though evidence that Bjork has not entirely moved away from the old introspection is provided by the brooding ‘Tabula Rasa’, in which the mother of two wonders reflects on how the actions of adults can damage their children.
Going on for 25 years since her chart-topping debut, Bjork is easily pigeon holes as batty alt.pop elfling. Utopia is unlikely to challenge the stereotype. But its weirdness has a lulling, beguiling quality — an extraordinary turnabout from an artist who, after years of tumult, has discovered beauty contains its own truths.
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