There is really only one way to listen to Bjsrk's new album: lights off, candle lit, lying naked in bed, staring at the ceiling with your soul bared to the secrets being shared. That's because Bjsrk is so utterly open here, both lyrically and vocally, it seems like she's performing in some techno-ethereal peep show, wearing only a swan and a smile. And you wouldn't want her to be the only naked one, now would you?
Judging by the vulnerable space she places herself in over and over throughout Vespertine, Bjsrk has no problem baring it all. The stark sensuality on every track brings to mind the voyeuristic pleasure of not only hearing but watching someone sing in the shower. It's powerful, but it's also uncomfortable, almost making you want to ask Ms. Gundmundsdottir to please put some clothes on before she goes traipsing around on those glaciers.
Vespertine is an earthy concoction of electronica, music boxes and angelic choruses, with lyrics not to be taken lightly. On "Cocoon", Bjsrk describes nighttime bliss with a lover: "He slides inside, half awake half asleep... when I wake up the second time in his arms, gorgeousness: he's still inside me!!!!" Lyrics of this erotic potency aren't for beginners in the game of love, and Bjsrk makes it clear that she is no neophyte.
Yet surprisingly, the most tender expressions of her passion aren't always sexual. She sings of her love for her son and her fondness of solitude with as much fervor as she speaks of things passed "from a mouth of a girl like me to a boy." What she doesn't express through her unabashedly sensual lyrics, she manages to convey with a whispering, at times hesitant, delivery that contrasts beautifully with her usual gut-driven wail.
Compared to the power-drenched ballads of previous releases like Post and Homogenic, Vespertine's songs are much more vulnerable, although the distinction between vulnerability and weakness is always clear. At times, it seems like Bjsrk's telling secrets not meant for mass consumption, confessions that somehow managed to escape her lips before she could stop them. The result is a beautiful if unnerving portrayal of the ways love plays tricks on our sense of security.
On the album's last track, "Unison", Bjsrk sings, "I thrive best hermit-style, with a beard and a pipe, and a parrot on each side. Now, I can't do this without you". She then repeats "I never thought I would compromise" over and over again, like a mantra for the battle between intimacy and self-sufficiency. Apparently, even Bjsrk has to self-sacrifice in order to enjoy the delicacies of love.