There are no easy crowd songs on Vulnicura. No wow-bam a la “It’s Oh So Quiet,” no “Army of Me”-esque screaming eagles, nothing to sing along to or grasp hold of. There is nothing to dance to on Vulnicura. Seventh cut “Atom Dance” is silvery and tenuous with nervous beats by Arca bubbling under the surface and an a cappella section by Antony Hegarty. “Dance! Dance!” Hegarty exhorts, possibly the most optimistic lyric thus far on the album. It’s in 5/4, and anyone who can dance to it has my deepest respect.
Vulnicura is a breakup album. In 2013, Bjork ended her twelve-year relationship with visual artist Matthew Barney, who is the father of her daughter Isadora. The album is a chronological array of Bjork’s songs about the end of the partnership – the loss of intimacy, the sudden absence of a love that had become familiar, the first flashes of hope in the haze of uncertainty. Shifting, grainy percussion, vocal lines swirling around each other, nightmarish yelps and meandering, sometimes disconnected threads of words all convey the pain and confusion of when normal dissolves into nothing.