Like us, Jenny Hval enjoys a healthy use of the word ‘cunt’. Unlike us, however, the Norwegian songwriter uses it in a much more creative way than we do (which is usually calling someone a weapons-grade thundercunt). Rather, she reclaims the word on Take Care of Yourself, simultaneously standing up to expectations of what ‘taking care’ of oneself might mean and emasculating any traditional notions there might be about it.
Emasculating is about right, as Hval also likes talking about soft dick. It’s used in that same song a couple of times, and also in her disenchanted opening monologue Kingsize. Here she opens her record with an extended metaphor about four bananas, her straddling (pun intended) of New York and Norway and all that entails.
Apocalypse, girl is an intense record. No two ways about it. But in all it’s bat-shit meanderings and experimental folk, it’s impossible to look away from. This is Hval’s punctuated art, her Girl, Interrupted, her strike for the cause. On The Battle Is Over she wraps her head around the existential and on Heaven she goes Bjork-like on her version of the celestial. It’s all jarring – knowing Hval, intentionally so – and not an easy listen by any means. But on tracks like Why This?, her closest-to-commercial attempt at a regular structure, it’s forever transfixing.
This isn’t a surprising work for anyone who experienced Hval’s spine-chilling duet with Susanna, I Have Walked This Body. That now feels like a pre-amble for her sonic experiments with both voice and reverb, like the ghostly White Underground and her ten-minute finale Holy Land. This is Hval’s unflinching take on being a modern woman, and the end of a world because of it. Quite what that world consists of is something only a dozen more listens can reveal.
Apocalypse, girl by Jenny Hval can be ordered here.