Thursday, April 16, 2015

Björk Marathon: Vulnicura

To celebrate the announcement today that Björk has made it on Time 100's The World's Most Influential People list this year, I think it's more than appropriate to kick off the last (for now) segment of the Björk marathon, focusing on her newest released album, Vulnicura. 

In May 2013,  Björk told the San Francisco Bay Guardian that she was in the early stages of her new album, and in that same month, she told the San Francisco Chronicle that she had "enough songs that I'm ready to see the next thing." She had been working with Venezuelan producer Arca, who co-produced with her, having no clue that Arca had worked with Kanye West on the BRILLIANT  Yeezus and FKA twigs EP2, and being somewhat turned off that Arca was such a fan, knowing her songs better than even she did, but finding that she and Arca had a fabulous connection as artists and friends. And she had also worked with The Haxan Cloak, another major collaborator in helping to produce the album with Björk. When word got around that two well-known, respected, and talented producers like Arca and The Haxan Cloak would be working with Björk, needless to say, fans were extremely excited, but then fans (me included, of course) nearly had an orgasm when on January 13, 2015, Björk posted this on her Facebook page:

And then, 3 days later, on January 16, 2015, she posted this picture on her Facebook page, including a message:

 yes !

new york , here are your vulnicura tour dates ! they are for real ! hope you enjoy them !

first we have

march 7 - carnegie hall ( 12pm matinee show )
tickets :

march 14 - carnegie hall ( 12pm matinee show )
tickets :

and then there's

march 25 - city center ( 8pm evening show )
march 28 - city center ( 12pm matinee show )
april 1 - city center ( 8pm evening show )
april 4 - city center ( 12pm matinee show )
tickets :

and of course

june 5-7 - governor's ball

see you soon !

photo : james merry

And that was when the madness began with me getting tickets for the Carnegie Hall shows and some of the New York City Center shows! Lucky for me, I got tickets for four shows, two for all Carnegie shows and two for the New York City Center shows. The April 4th show would be cancelled. In place of that, she added shows on March 18th and March 22nd at Brooklyn's Kings Theatre.

Then, not long after this announcement, the first-ever Vulnicura era interview was posted on Pitchfork in what is the most emotional interview that I've ever read from Björk. So heartwrenching. 

Another great interview (the 2nd from the Vulnicura era) that I highly recommend reading as well is the underrated Reykjavik Grapevine interview, Björk's Folk Music.

Vulnicura means "Cure for Wounds" (Vulnus + Cura) and she described it as:

"...a more traditional album than Biophilia for what concerns songwriting. It's about what may come to a person at the end of a relationship. It talks about the dialogues we may have in our heads and in our hearts, the healing processes."

Right away, it was clear that Björk's newest album would be a heartbreak album, giving us a devastating listen into the dissolution of her 13-year relationship with Matthew Barney.

After only just days of the album being announced, 2 months ahead of schedule, Vulnicura was leaked online. Björk had no other choice but to release the album digitally just days later, while having the physical release of the album still remain as a late-March release date.

So on January 20th, 2015, Björk gave us her most vulnerable and personal album of her career:

And in case some of you have missed it, here's my review of it.

I've listened to this album hundreds of times now practically, and I'm still touched and moved to tears by the raw emotion of this record. Every song is just beautiful, the string arrangements really do harken back to Homogenic, and the depth of emotion and sound is very much a throw back to Vespertine, but Vulnicura is its own masterpiece. All the positive and glowing reviews for Vulnicura were so well-deserved. And the praise for her first Carnegie Hall show was well-deserved as well.

Here's my review of that March 7th, Carnegie Hall show.

My favorite of all the NYC shows I went to for me was the first New York City Center show on March 25th, where I was front row, and truly able to see Björk's raw emotion. Just seeing her up close and personal (as I also had experienced with her Biophilia shows) is always out of this world, truly!

With the release of this album was not only the NYC shows to look forward to, but also her MoMA exhibit that opened to the public on March 8th (the day after her March 7th concert), and will end on June 7th, 2015.

I didn't review the MoMA exhibit on the blog (surprising, right?), but I'll say this: the exhibit was panned by critics, and in many ways, I agree with them. The MoMA exhibit was presented well (as you can see from the clip), but...there wasn't much in the exhibit. What was there was beautiful, gorgeous, and fascinating, but there was no historical basis or depth behind anything, and instead gave off an almost touristy Madame Tussauds meets Hard Rock Cafe feel to what should have been a far better exhibit. But, it is worth seeing, and it was and still is a crowd pleaser. The best part of the exhibit wasn't the "Soundlines" but the commissioned music video of Black Lake, which was extraordinary, so much so that every time I saw it, everyone in the audience would clap afterwards!

And the inclusion of a theater where everyone can watch all of Björk's music videos from Debut to Vulnicura (with the new addition of Lionsong) is a pretty nice touch, because it's where her art speaks for itself. Speaking of Lionsong, here's that music video:

Sure, the MoMA exhibit wasn't all it could and should have been, but it's still a well-deserved exhibit from one of the world's most extraordinary and unique artists.

There would also be a music video for Stonemilker, released March 22nd but only at MoMA PS1, available for only the Oculus Rift at the time, until June 5th when it was shared on Dazed.

This music video is "revolutionary" because the viewer can virtually explore the music video and the gorgeous landscapes of Iceland, with Björk dancing wherever direction you turn. Pretty cool.

And to be bought either online or at the MoMA book store is a new book called Björk: Archives, written by the guy that I'm happy to call a friend, Sjón, curator Klaus Biesenbach, Alex Ross, Nicola Dibben, and naturally, Björk.

The physical release of Vulnicura finally made its debut on March 23, 2015, with a special deluxe edition that has the slipcase cover. I've also ordered the LP copy of Vulnicura, which I believe may also be the same cover as the slipcase. So many fans really hated this cover and thought it "ugly" and "dated" looking, and at first, I was kind of shocked by its grotesqueness, all makes sense. This cover is her expression of her heartbreak/break up with Matthew Barney: ugly, open, and gutted.

And this cover looks shinier and actually very pretty in person than it does on this picture!

A little later after the debut of this new cover art, Björk posted on her Facebook page the "moving album cover" which is as devastating and yet beautiful as the entire album itself:

To celebrate the release of Vulnicura and the opening of the MoMA exhibit, Björk's entire back catalog (as a solo artist) was released in limited edition colored vinyl! 

You can find my review of ALL these LPs here

I've said this from the beginning, 2015 is a very good year to be a Björk fan!

Since this album is still oh so new, there's no conclusion to this era, yet. But, there's still more to come. Sadly, the day after Björk's last NYC concert for Vulnicura, Matthew Barney sued Björk for custody of their daughter, claiming that he wants more time with the child and that she's "hogging the child" and is only looking out for her "selfish needs" because she's the mother. I sensed something was unusual when that night, Björk didn't sing a single Vespertine song like she had with all the shows, didn't introduce the band, and she ended the evening singing Mouth Mantra, changing into this attire, looking as if she was a football player ready for battle:

That's only my interpretation and observation, of course, but I doubt any of this was by accident or coincidence. I really hope the two will settle out of court, and that things won't get any more uglier than it already is.

Björk will be performing in Europe from July to November. On May 15th, 2015 she was a surprise DJ for the birthday of Tri Angle Label, and she shared the hour-long set with us on May 18th. It's orgasmic!

(And that mask? Leigh Bowery realness!)

This give us a gorgeous insight into Björk's favorite vocalists and favorite beats (naturally, she credits those artists in her set when she announced it). Her "tune-tinder" is as magical as she is, really.

What will be happening from there - who knows!

As of now, all we have from Björk is Vulnicura, the MoMA exhibit (and its oh so many Björk merchandise - the only place where I've ever saw that many Björk stuff in one place!), Lionsong, Stonemilker, the moving album cover, and to those who have gone to them, memories from the NYC Vulnicura shows. Oh, and of course, these lovely Vulnicura-era photo shoots! :

                                                            By Alasdair McLellan


By Inez + Vinoodh - New York Times

By Inez + Vinoodh - T Magazine

By Inez + Vinoodh - Vulnicura

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