Just a kiss, was all there is…
How many artists occupy their own universe?
This one had me from the first line of her first verse.
Never been to Iceland, but Björk remains the reason it stays on the bucket list.
In a year that’s brought a political climate and news cycle that degrades, rather than elevates, the universe of Björk’s Utopia ascends to where I wanna be.
It’s a “city in the clouds,” to parse the Icelandic pixie-nymph-goddess’ own words.
A magical, mystical place, filled with big beats and angelic strings.
Where synths sound like flutes, and flutes sound like synths.
You can sense and see some of this astral fluffiness in the video for “Blissing Me.”
You can feel it cascading, cresting over you, like a wave, on “Arisen My Senses.”
Turn off the past’s old loops, trust your head around, absorb “Future Forever.”
All is full of love.
Björk is now 52.
Sixteen years since the last great album in an impeccable four album string, from Debut in 1993 thru Vespertine in 2001, she sounds equipped to embark on another run.
This is an idyllic landscape we’ve visited before. Still, there’s a newness to it.
Things feel different, yet snuggly familiar in spots.
Recent Vulnicara collaborator and lifelong Björk fan, Venezuelan DJ/Producer Arca (FKA Twigs, Kanye West), provides her most volcanic beats since Homogenic.
The flurry of drum-programming on “Losss” can be sniffed out like “Hunter.”
The girl who we watched running from a bear, through the forest as a younger woman, in the “Human Behavior” video, now declares “this forest is in me.”
I believe you, B.
This is not to say that utopia reaches perfection, like the way Björk rolls her R’s.
This misty mountain top still has a few traffic stops.
The thing I remember most about the nearly ten-minute album centerpiece, “Body Memory,” is that it’s nearly ten minutes long.
Speaking of long, this album, clocking in at close to 75 minutes of running time, is officially the longest album of our heroine’s four-decade career.
Like any project of similar length in musical history, an edit may not have hurt it.
But when you’re cloud-hopping, while a full fleet of flutes is whistling, “birds that sound like R2-D2” are chirping, plus programmed hard drums are popping, Utopia is a cosmic spot you don’t really wanna leave.
Those looking for standard pop songcraft, or candy-coated melodies, are missing the point.
Just be happy that Björk lets us kick back and levitate in her joint.
Everything following the goose-bump moment our heroine bellows “A-RISE-IN!,” as if the word springs from a fountain atop a mountain, in a way only a Nordic non-native-English-speaker-who-sees-elves-and-fairies can, is better than good.
Nothing is perfect, but it’s all perfectly understood.
The pain of divorce, a theme of 2015’s Vulnicara, does still surface (“Sue Me”).
But emerging on the other side, this emotional explorer serves a higher purpose.
The aspiration is for transcendence and her efforts prove worth it.
For long-time fans of Björk and music nerds who need some reason to believe, with a preposterous degree of positivity regarding the human condition, despite Donald Trump’s emboldening of AmeriKKKa, or Harvey Weinstein and Lars von Trier’s treatment of women in Hollywood, Utopia is a world you want to live in.
Notable Tracks: “Arisen My Senses” | “Blissing Me” | “Courtship” | “Future Forever”