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Jenny Hval Blood Bitch Sacred Bones

In a press release, Norwegian art-pop auteur Jenny Hval asserts that her fifth album, and the third under her own name, is about blood, menstruation, and vampires. These things are referenced throughout Blood Bitch, but in typical Hval style, the ideas feed into grander themes – desire, control, and confusion fleck every track.

Musically, Blood Bitch is Hval’s most accessible work so far. Conceptual Romance, a raw love song with a catchy chorus, proves this, as does Female Vampire, a pulsing meditation on losing yourself to someone else. But while the music is more straightforward than ever before, Hval’s lyrics, when you can make them out above the swirl of melodic synth work, still invite deeper analysis. There are jarring moments too – field recordings reminiscent of the sound of urination, screeching feedback, and ripping electronic organ aim to shake you out of the dreamy reflection the sway of her throbbing synth-pop and gorgeous harmonisation lulls you into.

Highlighted previously on last year’s Apocalypse, girl, Hval’s storytelling continues to be compelling. One of the most powerful moments of the album casts Hval back to childhood, where she starts to recollect a memory: upon waking up, she discovers blood on the bed. “Didn’t know it was time yet,” she ponders, before following a gut instinct to dip her finger in the liquid and mark the room with it. The song ends, “I have big dreams. And blood powers.” Elsewhere, she takes her birth control with a glass of rosé, and feels more connected to her body after being examined with a speculum by a doctor.

Ultimately, this is an album reflecting on what Jenny Hval refers to twice on the album, in separate songs: her “combined failures.” Convinced that she’s too lustful, too obsessive, too much, she repeatedly makes snatches at ways of surviving: “I don’t know who I am – but I’m working on it,” she sings. It’s an amalgamation of past, present and future, and a dazzling realisation of self from one of the most thought-provoking songwriters working today.