Easily one of music’s most indisputably enigmatic acts, Björk has returned with new music, and her Utopia album is being given positive praise by many critics. Surpassing opinions of her latest work, Vulnicura, which was marked by the sadness of her then-recent breakup with partner Matthew Barney, Utopia offers up a more playful, cheery tone.
Björk recently spoke of her more than 30 years making music with The Guardian, and in conversation she referred to her new Utopia album as her “Tinder album,” referencing the dating app. She was joking, as it turns out, feeling many missed the humor of her statement. “I thought that was hilarious, but obviously I would never be able to be on Tinder,” she said. “I think I’m Tindered to life. I’m dating life. I’m like: ‘Oh, those are new hands and I’ve got new legs and new … it’s a feeling of … It feels like a new adventure.'”
As we previously said of the new Utopia album, “If her last album, Vulnicura, is about heartbreak, Björk says that Utopia is about rediscovering paradise. And Björk’s alien-inspired cover art truly reflects this spirit.”
We were also particularly fond of her sporting a burgundy-colored strap-on in some of the album artwork.
Below, see what some of the music industry’s critics had to say about the new Utopia album:
Vulture’s Craig Jenkins had good things to say of the album’s “many layers”:
This week’s Utopia arrives two years after the Icelandic singer-producer’s downcast breakup album Vulnicura, and it offers a rejuvenating rush of desire to offset the previous project’s themes of drift and decay. Where on the last release Björk found herself longing for a searchable index of moments of lost intimacy on “History of Touches,” which paired futuristic science and human emotional frailty like Black Mirror’s memory replay daydream “The Entire History of You,” Utopia surveys the finer points of new romance, from profound to mundane.
For Entertainment Weekly, Leah Greenblatt called it “a fantastical sensory experience”:
Certain phrases do rise to the surface, like the word cube on a Magic 8 Ball. But Utopiais almost completely a sensory experience, fantastical soundscapes designed for secret snowflake rituals and Valkyrie picnics. In the midst of so much esoterica, it’s hard sometimes not to miss the more accessible Björk of the ’90s and early 2000s. Though in hindsight her flirtation with conventional pop craft may have been just that — one more whimsical detour on a long and seemingly unmappable creative path. And there’s still something thrilling about an artist who continues to invent herself: reaching further with every symphonic blip and wild birdcall, and redefining what it means to write a love song. B+
NME‘s Leonie Cooper gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars:
In keeping with the ‘Utopia’ of its title, Björk has created a paradise-like world here, with birdsong dotted throughout the album, transporting the listener to a magical sonic rainforest, with tracks like ‘Saint’ having more in common with a David Attenborough nature documentary soundtrack than a pop song. Most evocative of all though, is the sound produced by a 12-piece Icelandic female flute orchestra, the lushness of which lifts every track with a lightness that is at once hopeful but haunting.
Alexis Petridis for The Guardian gave the new Utopia album 3 of 5 stars:
It all ends with a defiant statement of intent. “Imagine a future and be in it … your past is a loop, turn it off,” she sings on Future Forever. It’s presumably a reference to escaping the fallout of the events detailed on Vulnicura, but it might as well be Björk’s musical mission statement. In a sense, Utopia fulfils it: it doesn’t sound like anything else, it’s audibly the work of an artist mapping out their own fresh musical territory. But occasionally, it also feels like the work of an artist with their eyes so firmly fixed forward they’ve blocked out their audience: an emotional journey you watch, intrigued, from a distance, rather than feel or participate in.
Stereogum’s “Premature Evaluation” is another positive review:
On her new album, Utopia, Björk ascends to a paradise of her own design, one that doesn’t negate the suffering heard on Vulnicura but does provide some semblance of shelter from it. Co-produced by Alejandro Ghersi (aka Arca) and mixed by the Haxan Cloak, Vulnicura was all angled edges and hollow thrums. (Arca also co-produced Utopia.) By contrast, Utopia is a ballet, more indebted to Tchaikovsky than the apocalypse. When Björk toured Vulnicura, she brought along an orchestra, and the classical element of that performance seems to have had a hand in Utopia’s soundscapes. Built on sweeping string arrangements and the rather baroque inclusion of a harp, much of Utopia sounds like a Fragonard painting come to life; all pastel hues and delicate lace.