The first sounds on Björk’s Utopia are birds chirping—and then an unsettled digital squiggle that sounds like a squeaking robo-mouse. From there, the song, “Arisen My Senses,” layers on gorgeous harps and blooms into a giddy expression of new love: “My palms pulsating of/The things I want to do to you.” The rest of Björk’s latest studio album is also full of these seismic awakenings. That’s due to its dense sonic approach: She and co-producer Arca layer organic sounds—trilling flutes, an Icelanidic choir and nature samples—atop meticulous production indebted to glitchy electronica, murky dance beats and shirring hip-hop rhythms.
But Utopia draws most of its power from Björk’s stark, reflective lyrics. Although songs allude to her relationship ending (“Tabula Rasa”) and the subsequent custody battle (“Sue Me”), the record is a concise treatise on moving forward after trauma and carving out a new, different path. The playful “Blissing Me” is about a very-2017 courtship based around swapping favorite tunes (“Is this excess texting a blessing?/Two music nerds obsessing”), while “Future Forever” is optimistic that a happier life is possible.
Utopia isn’t an album to throw on while doing other things: It demands that listeners carefully parse the lyrics, and absorb how Björk intends for them to interact with the music. The album’s cerebral and emotional sides are on even ground, however, making it one of her most intriguing albums yet.