On the edges and sometimes in the center of Jenny Hval's provocative avant-pop music, there's always been a bold vulnerability. The Norwegian musician constantly pushes the form, herself and her audience to examine complacency and identity, culminating in 2016's noisy, synth-driven Blood Bitch.
But with the first single from The Practice of Love, Hval indulges some comfort food. With a delicate sheen of trance-lite pop — the kind of rainy-night nostalgia heard on late-night Top-40 radio in the mid-'90s — "Ashes to Ashes" looks back to early Robyn, Everything But the Girl and Sophie B. Hawkins' still oh-so-good "As I Lay Me Down" as sonic and spiritual guides.
Hval must know that those airy hits of yesteryear contained a darkness within, lonely meditations decorated by arpeggiated synths. "She had this dream about a song," she sings, setting the tone. "She was certain that it was about a burial, the ritual beautifully written / Even the groove was filled with sadness."
Even in her newfound sweetness, there's a yearning to "put two fingers in the earth," dig her own grave "in the honeypot" and find her mortality.
The Practice of Love comes out Sep. 13 via Sacred Bones.
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.