Jenny Hval is a an ambient/electro-indie/art rock singer-songwriter and novelist from Oslo. In the late 1990s, she was in a goth-metal band, but since then, she’s been making music that people often compare to the likes of Laurie Anderson and Björk. She released two albums under the name Rocettothesky, and has released two under her given name. Next week, her third album Apocalypse, girl comes out via Sacred Bones Records.
I didn’t know anything about Jenny Hval until the 2015 Hopscotch Music Festival lineup was announced a couple of weeks ago. I was chatting with a friend about the announcement, and he was really excited about Jenny Hval being on the roster. We’ve had lots of lengthy discussions about music, and while we have a lot of similar tastes, we don’t always see eye-to-eye about genres or artists or the best parts of an artist’s catalog. He loves the really weirder part of Björk’s catalog (the last four albums), but I sort of lost interest in her after in about 2002. My friend absolutely loves the Polaris Music Prize-winning album by frequent Björk collaborator Tanya Tagaq, and I find it impossible to listen to. If you don’t know about the Inuit throat singer, who wears fur and eats seal because that’s what her native people do to survive, check out her performance at the 2014 Polaris award gala (she won the grand prize) here. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s very unusual.
Anyway, the point is that Jenny Hval is often compared to Björk, so I kinda feared that it was the “weird Björk” that people compared her to. The Medulla Björk. Tanya Tagaq was on that record, and it’s by far my least favorite Björk record. My fears were assuaged when I listened to a couple of the new Jenny Hval songs. Sure, this is some stuff that most people would consider “weird”, but I like it. If this is like Björk, this is like the late-90s Björk. Like Vespertine, which I absolutely love. That’s my second favorite Björk record. Sorry, but I still say that Post can’t be beat. This isn’t about Björk, though.
While I haven’t tracked down any of the older stuff, I’ve heard the new album, and I really like it. There’s some harsh moments though. The album is strewn with some pretty graphic references to male and female genitalia, and to sex. It’s actually fairly erotic. It’s not an album that you can listen to with your grandmother. It is, though, an album that rewards the listener for patience and thorough listening. Here’s one of my favorites:
“Sabbath” by Jenny Hval
This song has some elements that remind me of Broadcast, and of course, a lot that reminds me of Björk. Obviously I’m not saying that Jenny Hval sings like the late Trish Keenan or like Björk. The synths and the drums sound like Broadcast. The overall “feel” of the song is kinda Björk-esque. Sexy and mysterious and weird. In the best kind of way.
Apocalypse, girl comes out next week. You can pre-order it via bandcamp here. You can also buy physical versions of the album, or bundle an LP with a t-shirt by shopping at the label’s web shop here. If you’re looking at that t-shirt wondering what “soft dick rock” means, it’s a reference to a line in the first song from the album. That first song “Kingsize” is itself a reference to a collection of poems by Danish poet Mette Moestrup. The first line of the song is a line from one of Moestrup’s poems. Hval was interviewed about “soft dick rock” in this article.
Hval will be playing on the first night of Hopscotch. We don’t know the exact schedule yet, but we do know that Thursday will be a really strong night. Deerhunter and Godspeed in the City Plaza main stage. At the club shows, there’s Jenny Hval, Mamiffer, Wildhoney, Lilac Shadows, Lydia Loveless, Mac from Superchunk, Phil Cook, and many many more. Those are just the ones I’m excited about. And that’s just the first night! See more lineup details here and get all of your Hopscotch ticketing info here.
Hval’s novel is called Perlebryggeriet, (which means “Pearl brewery”) and it hasn’t been translated from Norwegian. So if you’re fluent in Norwegian, you should buy her book here. They say it’s set in a “fictional town somewhere between Glasgow and Melbourne” and that it’s about some kids living together while their house turns itself inside out. I got a big kick out of that “between Glasgow and Melbourne” line. That’s a distance of 17,000 km.
Just go buy the record.