Jenny Hval’s Apocalypse, girl seeks to undermine gender roles, to marry beautiful language with strange soundscapes and to knock the listener off-kilter. Though it has a strong background in spoken-word poetry and sometimes even evokes classic rock and jazz, Apocalypse, girl conforms to nothing. Her influences are hard to pin down; Hval’s sound is all her own.
“Kingsize,” Apocalypse, girl’s first track, gives us a glimpse of what we’re in for: raw, fearless, spoken vocals are played over a stuttering background of what can loosely be called music. The words she uses are haunting, but confusing. She mixes published poetry by Danish poet Mette Moestrup, who writes: “Think big, girl, like a king/Think kingsize.” Hval then asks her listeners, “What is soft dick rock?”
“Take Care Of Yourself,” the track that immediately follows, is a stark contrast to the opener, though it contains many of the same qualities. “Take Care Of Yourself” is actually quite musical. The spoken-word on this track spontaneously ceases to make way for breathy, ethereal song-like bits. These are the moments that make this album shine. “That Battle is Over” is another enjoyable track musically and contains many of those “moments.”
There are a few tracks on this record that are almost frightening. “White Underground” is undoubtedly one of them. It’s very difficult to make out what is being said, but the droning sound of multiple female voices, and the fade to marine noises, gives the listener a sense of drowning. Waves are again utilized in “Heaven,” which, instead of scaring the listener, evoke an image of a child walking by the seaside, singing to herself.
The next song is named “Why This,” and it is loud, passionate and precise with synths, a jazz-like beat and static. It’s a complete contrast to “Sabbath,” which is incredibly intimate. There, we are given a retelling of kissing children and a journey to self-awareness. Hval invites her listeners to understand what it feels like to be agitated, to be hot under the skin, to be discovering the self for the first time.
Apocalypse, girl is an album that challenges its listeners, its genre and society. It is painful, intimate, but an all-around interesting listen. Simply the experience of getting through every song gives one a sense of accomplishment. Hval has made a worthwhile piece of art here, one that should be appreciated.