“Two music nerds obsessing … sending each other mp3s” sings Björk euphorically over harp arpeggios, while multi-tracked Björks chirp cherubically in the background. The track, a very Björkian reverie titled “Blissing Me,” sets the tone for a record that’s in some ways a polar opposite to 2015’s incandescently brooding Vulnicura. That LP was a surgical examination of post-breakup grief framed by lush strings. Utopia mostly sends the orchestra packing, building its bright-lit world around bird-song samples, flutes, harp, choir and electronics, with input from innovative co-producers Arca and Rabit.
The set radiates playfulness and pleasure – the opener “Arisen My Senses” is a breathless barrage of abstract beats and pop timbres, a musical multiple orgasm. But Utopia‘s no more “pop” than Vulnicura, and not all shiny, happy fantasias. “Sue Me” conjures a divorce scenario amidst warped vocals and rummaging percussion. On “Body Memory,” words like “toxic,” “patriarchy” and “Kafka-esque” flash amidst war zone-like rumblings. With flutes and harp curlicuing playfully in the upper register as bass tones and beats sputter and implode ominously in the lower, “Loss” sums up the musical vision here – suggesting a practical realist who recognizes utopias are relative, and sustained only with sweat equity.