Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love

Jenny Hval returns with a compellingly self-assured and euphoric collection of cathartic meditations and unorthodox bangers

Album Review by Fraser MacIntyre | 12 Sep 2019
  • Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
Album title: The Practice of Love
Artist: Jenny Hval
Label: Sacred Bones Records
Release date: 13 Sep

The same restless desire to inquire, debate and understand that frequently propelled forward Blood Bitch – Jenny Hval’s intoxicating and, at times, Pharmakon-esque 2016 release – can be felt throughout The Practice of Love. On her latest solo album, released via Sacred Bones Records (home to everyone from Moon Duo to Marissa Nadler), the Norwegian musician and author has parted with a compelling and (considering the subject matter) surprisingly self-assured record that is more euphoric than claustrophobic.

The tension found in much of her older work is still present, primarily due to what Hval was reflecting on at the time: “What is our job as a member of the human race? Does the pressure to be normal ever stop?” However, influenced by “mainstream trance music of the 90s”, The Practice of Love is a frequently cathartic voyage. Songs that tackle existential queries are often filled to the brim with bitterness, anger, frustration and helplessness, rarely making peace with the lack of resolution most who ask the big questions are left with. Hval either didn’t get the memo or, more likely, scribbled a more constructive idea on top of it.

While Thumbsucker boasts impeccable hooks and Accident is a banger, it's lead single Ashes To Ashes that soars, thanks to exquisite production and Hval’s most intoxicating and elevating chorus to date. ‘I had this dream about a song’, she begins, halfway through a record that often feels like a warm invitation to converse; which she does with collaborator Laura Jean in the title track: ‘I’m part of this human ecosystem / But I’m not the main character / Because I feel that the main characters are the people that have kids… / I’m a supporting character / And that’s a hard thing for my ego to take'. The obligation to have children, to contribute to the survival of the human race is on Hval’s mind, along with other expectations society thrusts upon us.

The Practice of Love is a powerful and joyous offering from one of the last artists anyone could ever accuse of playing it safe. Her unorthodox observations ('She found stretch mark cream / In an Airbnb bathroom') are, more so than ever before, full of wit, bite and beauty.

Listen to: Ashes To Ashes, Accident, Lions (feat. Vivian Wang)