"Break the chain of the fuckups of the fathers / for us women to rise and not just take it lying down / the world is listening / oh how I love you / embarrassed to pass this mess over to you."
These are just a fraction of the standout lines on Björk's latest full-length, Utopia, her first album since the heartbreak of 2015's Vulnicura. The artist stakes out new emotional territory here as she envisions an optimistic "matriarchal dome" to lead society forward. Yet as hopeful as Utopia is, it's subtle and complex, never idealistic. Björk addresses the aftermath of her past relationship in "Loss" and "Sue Me," the former providing a response to Vespertine's "Pagan Poetry." What happens when the all-encompassing love she wrote of on that album ends? Having experienced the pain of Vulnicura, she's ready to acknowledge and move into new love, described ever so sweetly in "Blissing Me" and the modern complexity of "Courtship."
Musically, Björk reengages with her past records via the layered, robust co-production of Arca, who has provided beats that recall the sounds of Homogenic. These intertwine with Björk's orchestral leanings, as she favours harp, a rich flute section and strings to balance out the more industrial, electronic tendencies. Birdsong and the still-incredible range of her voice weave throughout the record, which kicks off strongly with "Arisen My Senses." It's spacious, full of chiming harp, crashing percussion and an open lightness seldom heard on Vulnicura.
Utopia feels like both a journey and a collection of statements that define and affirm who Björk is, as heard on "Future Forever": "Your past is a loop / turn it off […] See this possible future and be in it." Coming from Björk that hope shines particularly brightly. (One Little Indian)