Björk: Utopia

- Björk has had a long career built on her eccentricity, among other things, and with the release of her twelth studio record, Utopia, it shows she has only gotten weirder and more unpredictable as time has progressed. Utopia is fourteen tracks filled with lush, cinematic sounds and quirky ballads.

Opening track Future Forever starts off the record with thinly layered electronic pad sounds and a gut wrenching vocal line that swims over the instrumental with a sort of bittersweet sorrow. Saint combines creepy bird noises with jumpy pan flute chords to create a feeling of unrest within your heart, before Björk comes in with a harmony rich vocal part. The whole thing is a bit over the top but she makes it work, in an unsettling way. The title track uses more of these pan flute melodies -at times almost sounding like something from Fantasia- before her vocals come in. The recurring pan flute theme across the record is a classic Björk thing to do and she has manipulated an instrument that is both a bit cliched and mannered into a beautiful sound you just can’t get enough of.

Blissing Me is one of the tracks on the record that is more like some of her older work. She has left the synths and pan flutes behind and instead used a finger picked stringed instrument to create the backing for her vocal performance, which is very much in the forefront on this song. The melody is easier to follow on this one, and is a bit depressing compared to the more uplifting vibe on the rest of the record (well, as uplifting as Björk ever is, these days). This said, it's a welcome change, as these down tempo ballads are what we were all waiting for on this album. The Gate, clocking in at over six minutes, is a cinematic experience of strings, close vocal harmonies and jarring melodies. It’s an extreme aural experience that invokes all sort of emotions within you.

has always had a very alternative style of singing and this hasn’t changed on the record, despite the change in timbre from her last record. Her attack on each note never falters and the clarity of her voice has no competition. For some, her voice may come across a bit jarring but for any Björk purists, this record showcases her voice like icing on a really yummy cake.

If you ever thought Björk's appeal might wear out, Utopia proves she still has plenty of musical goodies up her extravagant sleeves. Always extra and never boring, Björk never fails to surprise and this record is a prime example of that.

- Olivia Shoesmith.

 

Album Details

Album Title: Utopia
Artist: Björk
Record Label: (One Little Indian / Inertia)