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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Artist of the Day: Jenny Hval

There’s no question that thought in the vein of social justice (feminism, gender studies, etc.) is a bit of an insider game. When it comes to those not indoctrinated, there seem to be two distinct groups - those who want to learn, and those who don’t. I can’t get behind refusing knowledge. Over the past couple of years, incidental introductions to the most basic of topics has infinitely changed my perspective. Still, I've barely scratched the surface of the surface. I do know one thing, though: music is a great educator. The Knife put out Shaking the Habitual earlier this year with mixed reactions from the general listening public, possibly due to that same divide I mentioned earlier. The record had its own flaws, though. 30 minute songs and sometimes unbearable avant-gardeishness left it alienating. This is a tricky problem. Music like this, let’s call it academic or something, has, all at once, to educate, awaken, and entertain. STH did a great job on part two, a pretty good job at one, and, at times, a pretty awful job at three. This isn’t to say it’s a bad record. The perfect mix is hard to come by.
Norwegian singer-songwriter Jenny Hval may represent a new chance for the movement. Her second album, Innocence is Kinky, opens her thrillingly novel sound up to a much wider audience than the good-but-tough-to-approach Viscera. The guitars are odd, even disconcerting, and the songs grow in ways you couldn’t call, but it’s all wonderfully attractive, not to mention educational. A video for the excellent title track pits ordinary women in ordinary situations, running, shaving, masturbating (yes, masturbation is ordinary. Perhaps that’s one of the lessons), but something’s a little wrong. Are we too close? Do they all look a little too pained? Forced? It’s off-putting in the strictest sense - the first music video in some time that’s made me say “hm...”

Hval isn’t trendy in the least, musically. Condensed, stark production and political lyrics won’t climb college radio charts, and she doesn’t have the Knife’s pedigree of cool to carry her blogwise. It’s quite unfortunate. If you’re excited by exciting music that won’t be slave to the past, you should listen to Innocence is Kinky

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