Written by Leo Baldi
Utopia is here and Bjork is back with her “tinder record” about physical and spiritual love.
Her previous studio effort, Vulnicura, was like a knife going deep into an open chest wound. The string arrangements and heavy beats represented a pain greater than words. Now here we are, two-and-a-half years later the chest has healed and transformed into a “gate” for new found care and courtship.
This record is very accessible yet very complex at the same time, and has some of the most pop-moments Bjork has ever had since Volta, as well as some of the most puzzling artistic choices. The reviews, in fact, do not seem to be agreeing on the reason why this record, no matter how fascinating it is, does not really stand out.
The first songs on the record are great, they manage to take the listener to a distant place where everything is in pastel peach and everyone has flower-like prosthetic on their faces. But as the album progresses you start to realise that actually there seems to be something weirdly off. The flutes and the synths are amazing, the harmonies enchanting and the electronic beats are as sharp as ever. So what is Utopia lacking?
The truth is that Bjork and Arca are great at making soundscapes, but not so much at delivering melodies, and if they find one, then it will be repeated over and over for 9 minutes, which is what happens on Body Memory, for instance. We can all appreciate the sonic masterpiece that the air instruments deliver on the album, but let’s face it, after 70 minutes of it, it’s not really that memorable. Compared to Bjork’s previous works, Utopia feels light and harmonious, but also tired and boring at the same time.
There are quite a few stand out tracks, such as Arisen My Senses, Blissing Me, Claimstaker and Courtship. These songs, among a couple others, offer new perspectives and still manage to be listenable from start to finish.
Nonetheless some tracks can be a bit annoying at times. Some of the beats feel a bit dated and already used. If you listened to Vulnicura, Homogenic and Arca’s latest album, there won’t be a lot new here, beat-wise. The only truly amazing elements that show sparks of genius are the electronic crys of birds and beasts which sound like they were recorded on a different planet, and of course the flutes arrangements that Bjork wrote herself.
In conclusion, Utopia is still a 9/10 when compared to today’s musical landscape, but a 7/10 when compared to Bjork’s body of work. It is still very enjoyable and songs like Tabula Rasa and Saint will make you shiver with bliss and joy, but the overall lack of melody, especially regarding the vocals, contributes in making the record a bit less memorable.
The one thing it truly excels at, though, is in introducing a completely new and fascinating world inhabited by strange aliens and creatures. I’m excited to how her visuals will pan out for such intriguing songs.
Listen to the album below: