jenny hval – blood bitch

– featured image courtesy of jenny berger myhre –

“album of the fortnight” is a new bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note.  the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: jenny hval.

there’s something inherently autumnal about jenny hval’s newest album, blood bitch.  not autumnal in the sense that it conjures up cliché imagery and feelings associated with the waning months of the calendar year, but rather in the sense that it seems, at times, to be teetering on the edge of a desolate landscape, grasping at motifs of warmth and familiarity before slipping into a period of hibernation and eventual rebirth.

hval’s airy vocals drift in and out of the foreground throughout blood bitch, often allowing her muted production to take precedence.  there’s the four-on-the-floor pulse of “the great undressing,” the duple-meter lilt of “period piece,” the esoteric thrum of “female vampire” – a smattering of directions that, together, would feel utterly directionless in another artist’s hands.  yet hval commands these avenues with the dexterity and nuance of the seasoned veteran she is, stringing together these at-times disparate compositions with the recurring theme of feeling.


pencil scratches frantically against paper on “untamed religion,” its anxious state countered by ambient static possessing great poise and restraint, a soliloquy on powerlessness superimposed over the top.  these juxtapositions sound messy and convoluted in description, but aurally, they’re exquisite, a dichotomous matrimony whose soothing attributes somehow manage to reign supreme.  elsewhere, hval is more overtly vulnerable (see “the plague,” “ritual awakening”) and her reliance on her own voice to convey these shortcomings renders their accompaniment decidedly more eerie: murky, with an occasional ominous dash of malice.

if blood bitch isn’t hval’s most ambitious effort to date, it certainly feels like her most immediate. “it’s about vampires,” she says amidst laughter from her conversational partner while discussing the central thesis of the album; anyone tuned into the nuances of blood bitch realizes that this generality would warrant admonition, and hval quickly doubles down to assert that the album is about more than just her horror movie influences.

and it is; blood bitch is a fairly transparent exploration of hval’s feminism, and that transparency aids in its potency.  if the contents of blood bitch cause discomfort, good.  if they create solace, even better; this is a manifesto that is equal parts unapologetic and gorgeous, a multi-faceted work of art that can be consumed and digested in myriad ways, depending on the date, time, and general state of being.  indulge.


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