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Five reasons to see Jenny Hval tonight at The Mill


Jenny Hval
Little Village’s music editor is obsessed with Jenny Hval. It’s true. — photo by Aslak Raanes

Sometimes fortune smiles upon you and there’s a Mission Creek show that seems perfectly catered to you. For this music nerd, that show is the Jenny Hval and Mark McGuire show tonight at The Mill. I think I’ve told no less than 50 people about my love for Jenny Hval, an experimental, art pop musician from Oslo, to the point that it’s almost become a catchphrase of mine — “Dude, you NEED to check out Jenny Hval.”

So, without further ado, here’s why you need to catch her set tonight.

1. This is her first full US tour

Though she’s had a few dates on the East Coast in the past few years, this tour marks her first time playing across the whole country. “It’s really exciting. I haven’t seen anything beyond the coasts,” Hval said, “I’m actually pretty excited about just traveling. It’s such a long journey, I can’t even imagine playing.”

2. English isn’t her first language — and her work is better for it

Hval is certainly fluent in English, but she readily admits to sometimes being “outside” of the language. However, as a writer and poet, she sees the advantages of sometimes needing to struggle with language.

“I definitely think that I have a freedom to make mistakes … It depends on what material I’m working with, I have quite a broad approach,” Hval said. “I guess sometimes I feel like I’ll be working on a song, then I’ll find a particular form for it … So I think it’s a problem that doesn’t really have a solution. you just find new approaches that might work.”

3. More than just a singer, she’s also a poet and essayist

She’s been published in 3:AM Magazine and wrote her master’s thesis at the University of Oslo on Kate Bush. She’s written essays on David Bowie, Patti Smith, and Britney Spears. Her poems are bizarre and powerful, and explore many of the themes she covers in her songs. Case in point, from her poem “Blood flight:”

They assumed the words came from themselves;
these unfamiliar thoughts,
and I sang to them:
Aaaaaa Aaaaa Aaaaaaaaaaaaa.
Such is the speech of the body

4. She loves Laurie Anderson

While writing and recording her latest album, the magnificent Innocence is Kinky, Hval said she “listened to Laurie Anderson constantly.” Anderson’s influence is pretty evident in Hval’s latest album, with loads of sly vocal manipulation juxtaposing lines delivered with a bold, straightforward spoken word style.

The title track off of her latest album, Innocence is Kinky, exemplifies the influence, beginning with the softly spoken line “That night, I watched people fucking on my computer” and then running wild with sonic experiments. With Anderson delivering a lecture just hours before Hval plays, it’s sorta crazy to think about who Mission Creek can bring together.

5. Just listen to her voice

Hval’s singing voice is a world within itself, a fact she is very aware of and which she interrogates within the lyrics of her songs. She’s not afraid to get loud, but
Her accent is extraordinarily unique, too.

“I studied in Melbourne and I picked up some of an Australian accent,” Hval said. “My voice has always changed quickly. I can tell already I’m picking up some American phrasing.”

But, really, just listen to her sing.

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