In this immersive, 14 track on-going private conversation, Björk surrounds herself and her audience with sonically challenging music and thoughtful lyrics that require more than a few listens to really go in-depth. Utopia is classic Björk; a standalone in its own right reminding us exactly why the singer/songwriter has been described as a musician far ahead of her time. For this endeavor, she has chosen to explore her own version of utopia, though her cautiousness for this newfound feeling of happiness is clear. “Did I just fall in love with love?” she croons at the end of the second track entitled “Blissing Me”, indicating that this idea of utopia may be rose-colored.
We begin this journey with “Arisen My Senses”, an intense track over-and-over-and-over dubbed. It is truly a sensory experience, as is much of the album. This track sets the table for the conversation that Björk is bringing to us: raw, powerful, intimate. Utopia is a love story that contains many layers. It’s the buzzing in your brain when faced with a new lover, a constant reminder that being vulnerable is difficult and chaotic. This buzzing of the brain continues throughout the album, sometimes echoed by harps and flutes, synthetic beats pulling us in and out of water, and other times, we catch the buzz through Björk’s own angelic voice.
A real highlight of this album comes in the seventh and eighth tracks: “Courtship” and “Losss”, respectively. “Courtship” is a dip into a more pop sound as Björk’s relationship with beat producer Arca is showcased in swirling synths and distortions of her lyrics. The language of the music and lyrics is powerful, a dialogue kept close to the heart. “Courtship” is very structured and something of a warning shot, leading effortlessly into “Losss”, which echoes back to Björk’s last album, Vulnicura. This is one of the more jarring tracks on the album, pulling us out of the utopia with a gut check back to reality. Her airy voice proclaims: “Loss of love, we all have suffered / How we make up for it defines who we, who we are / It defines us, how we overcome it / Recover, repair from loss.” This is an overarching theme of Utopia; recovery and repair from loss leads us to a better place, a utopia of our own understanding.
Utopia is a tapestry of distorted yet joyful reality. We are thrust immediately into a deep and insightful conversation with Björk, who does not hold back and expects us to do the same. This intimate look into her own private utopia is both satisfying and captivating, intense and hopeful, and a call to exploration in both mind and body.