The Austin Chronicle

Phases & Stages

Reviewed by Rob Cohen, May 1, 2015, Music

After a painful divorce, Björk Guðmundsdóttir invites us to dig through the pieces of her broken heart before choosing sides. The Icelandic wonder always demonstrates exceptional taste in collaborators, here aligning herself with space-pop producer Arca (FKA Twigs, Kanye West), and dark ambient auteur the Haxan Cloak. Though she still struggles to deliver lyrics melodically, Vulnicura pops expertly. After the tuneless, vague sounds of 2011's Biophilia, this fresh mix of Arca's fractured bloopage and string arrangements by Björk herself are a welcome upgrade. Moving chronologically through the couple's split, beginning with elegantly sad highlight "Stonemilker," on which "synchronizing our feelings" is as hard as "milking a stone," the album all but peaks on the post-breakup drama of "Atom Dance," an aching duet with the angel-voiced Antony. Björk slowly realizes she will survive, climaxing in her best new song: "Quicksand." She puts the diva as divorcée over in a forceful mix of lush strings, boom-bap bass, and skittering beats. As she sings, "When I'm broken I am whole and when I'm whole I'm broken," you can rest assured her army of "me" is back in full force.


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