ALBUM REVIEW: Jenny Hval – Innocence Is Kinky

Innocence Is Kinky artwork
Innocence Is Kinky artwork

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.36.33 AM

ARTIST Jenny Hval

ALBUM Innocence Is Kinky

LABEL Rune Grammofon

RELEASE DATE 14.5.2013

9.0 | 10

There might not be a better album title in 2013 than the name Jenny Hval has bestowed upon her latest musical collection. Innocence Is Kinky posits itself as an expression of a youthful bewilderment turned into maturing disinterest. The good, the pure, is the most easily manipulated. New horizons abound and a belief in trust is ripe. Instead of preaching to us, Hval is an active participant in the sexualization of innocence, in the process providing the music enormous depth that allows for beauty to be found among the chaos, as in the hard charging track “Give Me That Sound.”

Hval’s vocals recall the work of Regina Spektor, not in the sense that the two sound alike, but that they are the two sides of the proverbial coin, with their childlike sense of exploration and naïveté. “That night I watched people fucking on my computer,” she nonchalantly sings on the title track before before crunchy guitar riffs rip through the speakers, reminiscent to The Kills excellent Midnight Bloom opening track “U.R.A. Fever.” She commands the song with no more than a whisper, a trait that serves her well throughout.

“Mephisto in the Water” rolls along with an ominous chord progression. “The water, the water, the waves. Release her from me,” she sings during the chorus in what is arguably the most pop moment of the entire album, and her vocal acrobatics towards the end of the song is one of the best best moments in music this year, period. “I Called” would not sound out of place on a Deerhunter album, with its frenetic guitar squeal and four-to-the-floor drum beat. Her ability to tell a story with her songs is another aspect of Kinky that sets itself apart from her contemporaries. On “Renée Falconetti of Orléans” she lays out an intricate story of virgin love, poetically singing, “It is an act of love. He enters you, through your body. His eyes go through you like holy water.” You can hear Hval losing herself in the music, which is an incredible joy to experience. Here she is just as much a member of the listening audience as everyone else.

The singer never loses our interest, constantly commanding the listener’s undivided attention just by being. Her musical companions Håvard Volden and Kyrre Laastad play a crucial role in the album’s execution, providing Hval the sonic backdrop necessary to match her enchanting and exotic delivery. “Is There Anything On Me That Doesn’t Speak?” begins as a sort of parallel to the previous track “I Got No Strings,” before dropping into a western saloon stomp and then building to an gratifying and intense climax. “Death of the Author” and “The Seer” close the album out by lifting the audience into the ether, with the former sliding by over increasingly forceful vocals by Hval and the latter being perhaps the best track here, with the guitar humming in the background, Hval’s vocals taking hold of the spotlight. It’s her most restrained performance here, and rather than losing any thrill, her vocals act as an anchor here as some musical flourishes add a melodic touch to the song. “My body is the end,” she whispers at song’s and album’s end, in complete control of her destiny.

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