Björk - Utopia Album Review

Story posted November 29, 2017 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Jenna Minnig

As a musician who has been skillfully crafting her art since the 1990s, Björk somehow continues to raise the bar within experimental music on each new album. The Icelandic singer-songwriter is no rookie to the avant-garde style of music that so prominently defines her that varies from electronica to art pop to psychedelic rock. Björk’s tenth album Utopia is an emotional trip that leaves listeners feeling vulnerable upon its completion.

Björk pushes the boundaries on Utopia in such a unique way that even first-time listeners are immediately invited into the personal and emotional journey she sings through on the 14 track album. Björk does this by parting from a conventional song structure and transforming that into an intimate and personal journey of heartbreak and healing with the help of heavy instrumentals and electronic elements. Her ability to create a sound that is equally enhanced by instruments as it is by her piercing yet beautiful voice is something that makes this album stand out from others in the electronica category.

A mixture of prominent techno and classical aspects heard on this album are the result of Björk’s work in producing the piece alongside electronic music producer Arca. The pairing of the two is really what gives this album the rating it holds. Although Björk can easily create a record filled with earsplitting vocals and classical instruments on her own, the electroacoustic details that are produced by Arca takes listeners on a spiritual journey that grabs hold of one’s senses.

Someone listening to this album may feel haunted or perhaps even confused by the content captured on many of the songs. Sounds in the background of birds chirping and wind blowing through trees are just a few details that complement the visual elements that are easily envisioned on Utopia. This album truly takes listeners on a journey of the senses. The dreamy fantasies of life Björk sings about established by her captivating voice allows one’s mind to roam far into the deeper meanings of the songs.

With that being said, this album holds intense themes that only add to the singer’s mysterious course of self-exploration. In 2015, Björk created what is now most popularly referred to as her quintessential breakup album, Vulnicura. Details of the broken relationship with her then partner Matthew Barney are manifested through impressive singing and minor electronic elements that only tap into the success Björk would accomplish through her later collaborations with Arca. However, the themes on Utopia take a completely different route than those previous album. This the recovery album; the place where Björk comes to terms with her heartbreak and learns how to move forward while remembering the past. The title track most vividly displays this notion of mending and moving on over lyrics that analyze the process of purifying everything that was once toxic in the singer’s life.

Although Utopia is a lengthy album, it would be doing a disservice to oneself to skip through tracks as every minute spent listening is completely worth it. Each track has vaguely similar qualities that make this a coherent and digestible record. By no means is this a lighthearted or fun piece, but it is an important release in Björk’s career as it outlines the tender journey of self-exploration she experienced over the past two years, while also making herself vulnerable by allowing listeners to experience this trip with her. It is without a doubt that Utopia is and will remain an essential addition to Björk’s already impressive discography.

Rating: 8/10

 

Jenna Minnig is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email at jkm5756@psu.edu.