you like it bassy, he says. and he’s right i guess, i like that gold heft of light juxtaposed with a little stormcloud, or that effect of a bright sunset smack against a greyish snow. not against, but alongside, in cahoots with, visually defined by. that sun with that shadow. the two in the one.
in these speakers, since i’m aging, i need the bass turned up, pronounced. that lower register grinding (not against) beneath bjorkian vocals. otherwise the rush of synthetic sounds on the upper registers sounds grating, tinny, thin. like this, with the bass turned up, the growls are evened up with female rage.
hear that insistent throbbing, even if her singing gets muffled in the trade.
he took it from his father
who took it from his father
who took it from his father
let’s break this curse
so it won’t fall on our daughter
and her daughter
and her daughter
what is the scraping rotating from ear to ear behind the lyrics? what is the machine that grinds these plastic wheels? what’re we shuffling behind my head like a deck of cards stacked against women almost always?
it’s too much, i know, i get it, i hear it too, me reaching into the ether, trying to make meaning from my heartache.
if vulnicura is the breakup album, utopia is its cure, its twin in arms, two halves of the same rank struggle. that’s why i’ve been listening to it all week, valentine’s week, no less, while my breakup is raging. it’s been a year so we’re in a sense beyond the suddenness that breakups are. no, we’re hovering in a healing plane, a loving place even, but the ache’s no less valanced. if anything, there are more valences to this thing now, layer on layer of grinding and squeaking and greasy wheels making obtrusive but indistinguishable sounds. we love each other, but it’s over. sometimes an album ends like that, not with a bang but a whisper.
if every bjork album is about me that might speak more to her universality than it does to my own narcissism. i need it to speak to me because i’m hurting, my friends are hurting too, and who else can handle the load of my sorrows right now. not my mother, with her own male hurts. not my sister in arms. those countless daughters. or the sons still trying to navigate their fathers’ wrongs. it’s me and bjork, alone together, down sunny streets still cold with winter. it’s bjork and i singing to each other in a vacuum, staring at the ceiling, static at the screen. it’s just us except she’s a mother so she’s trying to protect her daughter, and i want it to be me. she knows what it’s like to witness the cycle repeating, it loops and loops and belches and bellows from their dna, their generations of whims, their masculine ideals and allegiances. she’s an ethereal spirit so eternal, she’s seen it all. but she’s a terrestrial guide so she suffers it, synthesizes it, operating on both registers: the creative and the destructive.
‘sue me’ feels like she’s negotiating with herself more than with a male ex-beloved. the first verse, the first gesture, if subtle, sets the terms of the negotiation. it’s herself she’s telling to extract the hardened tears. she’s generating, letting the hurt and words come, licking the wound apart a bit.
then after the refrain she’s telling us a story, she’s telling it to herself, her lack of compromise, from the biblical tale, the mother who loves the baby best doesn’t want it to be dismembered. but a man would, out of principle. out of romanticized ideal. an allegiance to self only. if a man is torn apart, he won’t mind tearing everything apart with him. it’ll only be fair, it’ll only reflect his brokenness in the world.
but by the bridge i’m convinced the child is also the earth we’re tearing asunder. and the child is also the relationship they let dissolve. and the child is also a listener somewhere in new york city on the verge of leaving it, watching these people bend and break it for their own amusement and/or economics. trump is declaring a national emergency just now to solidify our borders. as if women don’t already know those fuckers are porous anyway. it scares them, that we see our guts pulled out, that our bodies are destroyed so that life can be made. men can’t operate both registers usually, they just can’t sing that high.
if in vulnicura i couldn’t make it past the middle, i’m firstly stuck in the middle of utopia for some reason. the emotional core, or what resonates, is ‘losss’ and ‘sue me’.
soft is my chest
we’re finally vulnerable
i like the dainty little flicks in the track, the methodical way she gets through the lyrics, even the ungrammar of them. i also like the arca-spun dnb effects in the back.
loss of love, we all have suffered
how we make up for it defines who we, who we are
it defines us, how we overcome it
recover, repair from loss
the song is also very philosophical, it feels like the healing i’ve been waiting for since vulnicura. but lest we mistake it for a little glosss, ‘losss’ ends i dare say darkly, despite those bird-like trills. it really drums. it really does run. i really do like it bassy. he was right. i like it both ways really. the shrill and the earth-bound. the hopeful, the despair, suffering together, forgiving each other, ending messy, almost intolerably. arca really goes in at the end, or bjork does, i want to give credit where credit is due. by the end it’s an emergency of horns, something urgent has happened. the sound travels from left to right.
and then we’re plunged into ‘sue me’. ‘sue me’s the rage to the emotional maturity. no, it’s emotionally mature in its own right. it does both. how are you feeling today, he asks me over text. i dno, bjorky, i say. femme rage.
stay calm and femme rage on, he quips. all over text. but on another plane he’s already left me.