Stonemilker

Album: Vulnicura (2015)

Songfacts®:

  • This is the opening track of Vulnicura, which was originally scheduled to be dropped in March 2015, but was released on iTunes two months early following an internet leak.
  • Vulnicura reflects on Bjork's 2013 breakup with the artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney, with whom she had a daughter, Isadora, in 2002. The lyrics booklet that accompanies the album on iTunes creates a rough timeline of the split. This song is annotated as "9 months before."
  • Speaking to Pitchfork, Bjork said that the separation from Barney was "the most painful thing" she had ever experienced. "When I did this album it all just collapsed. I didn't have anything," she commented. "It was the most painful thing I ever experienced in my life. 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 than what I've done before."

    Bjork went on to say that the subject of the breakup was difficult to open up about, but that the album's lyrics tell the full story. "It's really hard for me to talk about it," she said. "It really is in the lyrics. I've never really done lyrics like this, because they're so teenage, so simple. I wrote them really quickly. But I also spent a long time on them to get them just right. It's so hard to talk about the subject matter; it's impossible — I'm sorry. There's so many songs about [heartbreak] that exist this in the world, because music is somehow the perfect medium to express something like this."
  • The song's music video is a virtual reality film shot on a 360 camera by Andrew Thomas Huang. Frequent Björk collaborator Huang won Best New Director at the 2013 UK Music Video Awards for his work on the Icelandic singer's clip for "Mutual Core."

    The video was shot on a beach in Grotta, Reykjavik, where the song was written. Björk explained: "We discussed [the 360 camera's] potential for intimacy and Andrew then suggested we take it to the beach where the song was written. It immediately rang true for me as that location has a beautiful 360 panoramic view which matches the cyclical fugue like movement in the song. If the song has a shape it is sort of like a circle that just goes on forever."

    "I had recorded the strings with a clip on mike on each instrument," she added. "We have made a different mix where we have fanned this in an intimate circle around the listener. So as you watch this in the virtual reality headset it will be as if you are on that beach and with the 30 players sitting in a circle tightly around you."
  • Björk discussed the writing of the song's lyrics during a Song Exploder podcast. "I was walking on a beach and I was walking back and forth and the lyrics came along without me really editing them," she recalled. "The strength of this album is really simplicity and the thinking out loud feeling. And I shouldn't be too clever. It would work against it. So, I kind of just went with the first words that came. [They're] probably the most obvious lyrics I've ever written."

    Moving onto the song's meaning, Bjork said: "It's about someone who's trying to get emotions out of another person. The whole song is emotionally about wanting clarity, wanting simplicity, and talking to someone who wants things to be really complex and foggy and unclear. And you saying, ok, I've got clarity: want it or not? So, it's sort of celebrating simplicity and clarity."

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