Jenny Hval Classic Objects 4AD
A great artist should always evolve, and Jenny Hval is nothing if not a great capital-A Artist. Which is why Classic Objects was never going to be anything like her last solo project – the titanic 2019 album The Practice of Love, which (still) sounds ahead of its time. That album pushed Hval’s metatextual dream pop into a full techno freakout, so it makes sense that her follow up retreats from such a dramatic tonal commitment. But with Classic Objects, Hval has perhaps regressed too far in the other direction.
This is, however, entirely by design. The isolation of the pandemic inspired Hval to explore the sensation of living as “artists without the art”, of being “reduced to the problematic entity ‘just me’”. Hval stripped her characteristics down to their bare essentials and, inevitably, wrote some of the most personal songs of her career. This manifests in extremely unexpected ways, as if the grim subject matter is being Trojan Horse-d in melodies sunny enough to be shocking. If you ever wondered what it would sound like if Hval sang in a bossa nova band, album opener Year of Love has the answer, while American Coffee twists a hymn-like confessional into meandering lounge music.
The record’s first third is, somewhat paradoxically, chaotically bland. Only at the gorgeous Cemetery of Splendour does the album begin to congeal. That track, along with the equally spellbinding Year of Sky and Jupiter, is a far richer example of this iteration of Hval, meeting the minimalist form with powerful, deeply moving composition. In particular, the latter half of Cemetery sounds like the apex of the scattershot spoken word she recently employed as one half of Lost Girls on last year’s excellent Menneskekollektivet EP.
Yet comparing Classic Objects to anything else in Hval’s oeuvre will only serve to sour the taste. Even her wonderfully quotidian musings begin to feel trite and twee on a song like Freedom, which begins with a crooning, cringe-inducing plea of wanting to “live in a democracy where art is free”. Moments like this make you question who this project is for, but as an artist worthy of the utmost respect and adoration, we can be content knowing it is, at the very least least, for her.