Published May 22, 2018Few artists will have a more productive 2018 than Jenny Hval. In March, the genre-defying Norwegian artist released a twelve-inch in two parts with long-time collaborator Håvard Volden under the name Lost Girls, and her debut novel, Paradise Rot, will arrive in October.
Sandwiched between those, The Long Sleep could have been an afterthought, but Hval doesn't deal in half measures. Her latest EP expands previous thematic preoccupations into bold, affecting new territory.
The big, intimidating issues are still present — music's communicative potential, the effacement of the self, the pernicious influence of consumer capitalism — but Hval makes them personal, even inviting. Often written in an intimate second person, her lyrics comfort and beseech, reaching out to narrative subjects and listeners alike. Unstable familiarity bleeds through the EP as each track recycles motifs to new ends. In the direct address to the audience on "I Want to Tell You Something," or the reframing of disco ball imagery on "The Dreamer Is Everyone in Her Dreams," Hval imbues every repetition with fresh significance.
For all its theoretical rigour, though, The Long Sleep still embraces the instant gratification of pop music. "Spells" boasts Hval's most anthemic chorus yet, an affirming show of vigour and solidarity undergirded by a poppy beat and warm piano. Even when "The Long Sleep" drifts into abstract instrumentals, it carries an appealing air of natural tranquility.
Hval's knack for the conceptual can make her an elusive songwriter, but The Long Sleep offers plenty of immediate charms. Like the disco ball that hangs through the EP's first half, Hval breaks down her ideas and refracts them into something luminous. (Sacred Bones)