I wouldn’t mind writing about Jenny Hval every year. The Norwegian artist has been around the block, but remains relatively quiet in a provocative niche, where industrial electronics meet political performance art. Her 2015 LP, Apocolypse, girl, was a great introduction to her work, and did make my top albums list of that year. Now she’s back on SnG due to the mastery of form achieved on the release that followed, titled Blood Bitch.
“What’s this album about, Jenny?” a female voice jokes halfway through the record, manhandling a mic enough to pick up white noise just from the movement. “It’s about vampires!” Hval replies, half in jest, but presumably, also completely seriously. Vampires may seem “basic,” (direct quote from “The Great Undressing”) but the symbol fits in almost too perfectly with Hval’s usual political themes. She uses a monster to compare the way women’s menstrual cycles ostracize them from society, despite being a positive indication of health. It is its own contradiction, and with Hval’s focus one can feel the impact on women and feminism everywhere.
Irony abounds in Blood Bitch, evidence of Hval’s love for the literary device. In “Conceptual Romance,” an allegory spirals from an ironic perspective to a remarkably serious one, implicitly arguing that love is a fiction to have faith in rather than a reality. But Hval presents it in the third person, indicating that the “blood bitch” is our protagonist, and therefore recentering the story to be a cautionary tale. She described the song on her website, saying: “Chord changes, melodic phrases and rhythmic pulses can have mystical qualities. … They are a way to make sense of your own impermanence. The key is in the change of chords or notes, the restlessness of moving on. The strength of a song is its fragility.” Yet even more irony tied to a short four and a half minutes.
But Hval writes lyrics with such multiplicity that the significance of this track is infinite. It ties in with the rest of the record through an image of images, the deconstruction of a gaze. “So I lose my gaze to keep you,” she sings, relenting from an earlier opinion against subjectivity in “Female Vampire.” Towards the end, lyrics in “Secret Touch” come to this conclusion:
“Exchanging one drive for another drive
There comes a certain point in our lives when we more or less
Desperately want to be bad
And we gladly exchange the good things
Just to for a short moment feel alive
I can tell you that I’ve never felt so alive
As when you embraced me”
Best Albums of 2016
5. Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch