Nothing breaks like a heart, and nothing burns like a breakup album. In the wake of an ugly split from her longtime partner, American artist Matthew Barney, Björk began crafting her own cracked entry to a canon that includes such touchstones like Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill, and Adele’s 25. But naturally, she could only do it in inimitable Björk style. The result was 2015’s Vulnicura, a sui generis tapestry of glimmering orchestral instrumentation, mentholated beats, and shivery vocals—and an album whose heady sonic imprint feels only nominally connected to the ordinary world most of us occupy. Constructed from many of the same essential building blocks as Biophilia—her lush 2011 album—Vulnicura is aesthetically lovely and lyrically devastating. Working with avant-garde innovator Arca, as well as the British studio wizard The Haxan Cloak, Björk came up with nine songs that land with an uncommon emotional rawness—even if their construction is meticulous. There’s the delicate, synth-drenched sparsity of “History of Touches”; the walloping stutter-step build on “Black Lake”; and the immersive, burbling “Atom Dance,” featuring guest vocalist ANOHNI. Vulnicura would prove to be a critical triumph for Björk, landing on the year-end lists of multiple publications. It also found the singer pushing even further into 21st-century technology, using then-nascent gadgets like the head-mounted Oculus Rift to mount a traveling exhibition of virtual-reality videos. It was the latest innovation from an artist whose creative and personal evolution was still in full bloom—even now, more than 20 years into her solo career.

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