Vulnicura is the ninth studio album by Icelandic musician and singer Björk. It was produced by Björk, Arca, and The Haxan Cloak, and released on 20 January 2015 by One Little Indian Records. Björk said the album expresses her feelings before and after her breakup with artist Matthew Barney and the healing process.
Vulnicura was originally scheduled for release in March 2015, in conjunction with the Björk: Archives book and an exhibition about Björk's career at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. However, following an internet leak, it was released digitally two months early. No singles were physically released to promote the album, but several songs from the album received music videos. Vulnicura received widespread acclaim from critics, with many considering it one of her most honest and personal albums as well as her best effort in a decade.
The companion album Vulnicura Strings (Vulnicura: The Acoustic Version – Strings, Voice and Viola Organista Only) (or simply Vulnicura Strings) was released on CD and digital download on November 6th, 2015 and on vinyl December 4th 2015. It features strings-only interpretations of the Vulnicura tracks and utilizes an instrument designed by Leonardo da Vinci called the Viola Organista.
After completing the tour for her previous project Biophilia (2011), which featured a series of apps and instruments created especially for the live show, Björk expressed interest in using the same instruments for her next project. She told The Independent: "I happen to know some of the best app programmers in the world, and I have the instruments I can just plug straight into the iPad and play whatever I have. So it seems kind of natural to work on an album where I don't have three years of prepping. But at the same time, it is a kind of extreme project."
In May 2013, Björk told the San Francisco Bay Guardian that she was in the early stages of a new album. In the same month, she told the San Francisco Chronicle she had "enough songs that I'm ready to see the next thing."
The album is primarily composed of string arrangements and electronic beats, as a return to the sound Björk pursued on her 1997 album Homogenic. In an interview with Pitchfork, Björk exposed how working on string arrangements served as a way to keep her mind busy after her breakup: "The only way I could deal with that was to start writing for strings; I decided to become a violin nerd and arrange everything for 15 strings and take a step further."
The involvement of Arca came in late stages of the writing process, which Björk described as "such a contrast, the most fun music-making I’ve ever had, with the most tragic subject matter [...] I just sat next to [Arca] for weeks, and we did the whole album. It’s the quickest I’ve ever worked [...] It's one of those crazy things in life where people from opposite ends meet, and you’ve got so much to teach each other."
On 18 January 2015, just days after being publicly announced, and two months ahead of its scheduled release, a supposed full version of the album leaked online. At the time, no official release date or cover art was confirmed, neither was announced the featuring of Hegarty on "Atom Dance". The illegal leak was compared to the one that happened to Madonna and her album Rebel Heart, whose several songs in their demo form were leaked online during late 2014.
The album's release date was pushed up to 20 January, becoming available as a digital download.
The artwork was designed by longtime collaborators M/M (Paris). The digital cover, was photographed by also longtime collaborators Inez and Vinoodh: "She said she wanted to have a wound on her body, on her heart area, in an abstract way [...] Imagine you’re Mata Hari, a seductress, but you’re wounded, and there is an incredibly alluring softness around you." On the cover, Björk wears a black latex suit, a wound on her chest and a headpiece made of quills, which she already wore during the last stages of her Biophilia Tour. Björk clarified that, during the time in between the two albums, the Vulnicura cover character started surfacing. The main color of the artwork is yellow, since Björk links this color to the "healing" process. The photo shoot was filmed and transformed into a music video to accompany the album track "Lionsong".
For the physical release, a second cover art was made by Andrew Thomas Huang. In the deluxe edition, the artwork comes in the shape of an acetate slipcase. This artwork was also transformed into a short music video for the track "Family".
To co-inside with all of Björk's previous albums being reissued on limited edition colored vinyls for the MoMA retrospective, Vulnicura was later issued in a limited run of double neon yellow LPs.
The first video produced for Vulnicura was "Black Lake", directed by Andrew Thomas Huang who previously collaborated with Björk on Biophilia's "Mutual Core" video in 2012. It was announced that the video would debut at MoMA's Björk retrospectivein March 2015 in an elaborate video installation. A trailer for the retrospective premiered on the MoMA's YouTube channel on 13 February 2015. The trailer is a single shot of a nude Björk lying on a black dirt field with her body literally split in half, while the official video has the singer walking through a black Icelandic cave in an original Iris Van Herpen dress. In explaining the evolution of the "Black Lake" video project, Björk said, "I think me and Andrew kept wanting the song to be rawer and rawer and more and more without special effects: to go totally "Ingmar Bergman" on it. So the "book cover" ended up being a book cover....." While the MoMA "Black Lake" installation consisted of 2 screens showcasing complementary edits of the 10 minute video, the final music video version, which debuted on Dazed Digital on 10 June 2015, is a composite of both videos. The Haxan Cloak, who co-produced the Vulnicura track "Family", created a special mix of the song to accompany the video.
To celebrate the opening of the MoMA show and the upcoming physical release of the album, Björk announced on Facebook the "Stonemilker" 360-degree virtual reality music video. It utilized the Oculus Rift, a VR head-mounted display, and featured the singer on the same Icelandic beach where she originally wrote the song. The video premiered at MoMA's sister location, the MoMA PS1 on 22 March and was briefly made available to customers of the record shop Rough Trade in London and Brooklyn, NY who purchased the physical album. The VR head-set version of the video featured a strings only mix of the song. Bjork explained, "I had recorded the strings with a clip-on mike on each instrument. We have made a different mix where we have fanned this in an intimate circle around the listener." It was later released as a 360-degree YouTube video on 6 June 2015 featuring the original album mix.
Four days before the physical release of Vulnicura, Noisey debuted the video for "Lionsong", directed by the Dutch creative duo Inez & Vinoodh, directors of Björk's "Hidden Place" and "Moon" videos. "Lionsong" was conceived of spontaneously during the Vulnicura album cover photo shoot. The video played in the Cinema room of the MoMA retrospective as part of Björk's complete videography.
On 16 March 2015, the day of Vulnicura's physical release, a "moving album cover" video premiered online featuring the CGI character of the deluxe edition artwork created by Huang. Björk conceived of the video, which is set to a condensed edit of the track "Family", as the completion of the "Black Lake" video. Huang explained, "She came back to me because she (felt) that (what was shown in Black Lake) was only 50% of that character, and that there’s another 50% of this persona that she’s been in for this past year-and-a-half to two years, that is much more positive and resolved in itself."
On December 2015, the music video for "Mouth Mantra" - directed by Arca's longtime collaborator Jesse Kanda - was revealed.