Earthy and ethereal, ‘Utopia’ invites even the most ambivalent Björk listener to take a bite of the apple. ‘Utopia’ is the 9th studio album from the boundary pushing Icelandic icon. Throughout a career that has spanned four decades, ‘Utopia’ is her longest album to date.
With the exception of one track, all songs are co–produced with Venezuelan–born producer Arca. No stranger to working with Björk, Arca co–produced tracks on her previous album, ‘Vulnicura’, an album that explored profound pain and loss. If ‘Vulnicura’ was a cacophony of heartbreak ‘Utopia’ is the tonic, the symphony of a world reimagined.
Both Arca and Björk have given each other enough room to move on this album. Floral flutes and woodwinds are central and serve to augment the idyllic birdsong whilst lingering around Arca’s snaking beats.
The opening track Arisen My Senses leads in with enchanted sounds of tropical birds and prepares the listener for what lies ahead. Björk’s voice is awake with lyrics such as “Weaving a mixtape, With every crossfade, For him a he, Is WWW” and is married with intermittent harp and Arca’s expanding synths.
Recently released Blissing Me is the most structured song on the album and one that is the closest to Björks’ avant garde reign. It adds to the continuum of lyrics that gush with excitement of new love.
The title track of the album is a perfect synopsis of the ‘Utopia’ Björk has created, one in which birdsong symphonies arch around lyrics of love and promise.
Adoring lyrics prevail in songs such as Creature Features whereby Björk regales at the sight of someone who resembles the object of her ideation, singing “When I spot someone,Who is same height as you, And goes to same record stores, I literally think I am five minutes away from love”.
Björk purists will note a departure from heavily stylised structured beats. Instead, the sporadic tempo of the album only adds to the limitless feeling and idyllic paradise Björk has created, and it abounds with Arca’s galvanising synths and layered vocal melodies.
Sue Me on the second half of the album flows towards a more powerful and combative tone, with a desire to interrupt the inherited status quo of destructive masculinity. “He took it from his father, Who took it from his father, Who took it from his father , Let‘s break this curse”.
Exploring further the legacy of inequality is the succinct Tabula Rasa, which is the philosophy that each human is born with a clean slate, devoid of bias. Addressing her daughter, Björk implores “Clean plate: Tabula rasa for my children, Let‘s clean up: Break the chain of the fuckups of the fathers, It is time: For us women to rise and not just take it lying down, It is time: The world is listening”.
The penultimate track Saint is a homage to music as an entity that heals, lives and breaths and once again Björk aligns strength with the feminine “She always knows when people need stroking, And is attracted to deathbeds and divorces”.
The closing track of the album Forever Future it is an optimistic anthem that speaks of healing and a presence of mind. Hollowed by organ, layered vocals echo in an almost ecclesiastical manner with lyrics that encourage us to move forward and reach for better “Guide your stare elsewhere , Your love is already waiting, You‘re already in it”.
‘Utopia’ was described in jest by Björk as her “Tinder album”.
For someone who has had an on–off relationship with Björk’s music over the years, Utopia is a swipe in the right direction.