Jenny Hval & Opinions on Harry Styles and Sir the Baptist

Jenny Hval

Norwegian singer-songwriter and performance artist Jenny Hval has released six albums of ethereal and challenging music. On her latest record, she explores the links between vampirism and the female body. Jim and Greg speak with Jenny Hval about her career and process. Plus, reviews of the new albums from Harry Styles and Sir the Baptist.

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Harry Styles Harry Styles

Harry Styles

Musician Harry Styles has been compared to Davie Bowie in the British press. But does his debut solo album, Harry Styles, live up to the hype? Greg says the album rips off classic rock riffs from the likes of U2 and Badfinger to craft a retro-leaning sound. He was expecting a pop-leaning stadium sounding record from Styles, who was formerly a member of boy band One Direction. Greg thinks the album, however, is a personal-sounding record that lacks substantive lyrics. Greg says Trash It. Jim says turn to Justin Timberlake if you want to see a young product of the modern pop machine who became a true visionary artist. He admits there are some charming moments on the record, but that most of them [are] ripped off from other places in rock history. Ultimately, Jim gives Harry Styles a Try It.

Saint or Sinner Sir the Baptist

Sir The Baptist

Chicago’s Sir the Baptist broke on the scene with a gospel-fueled single called Raise Hell, and his debut album Saint or Sinner continues his experiments in blending the sacred and the street. Greg says that at Lollapalooza last year, Sir performed part of his set out of a casket on stage, a commentary on the gun violence in Chicago; but also, a deeper message about faith, about spirituality, and about the role it could play in the lives of young people.

Jim and Greg note that Sir the Baptist was ahead of the curve of mixing religious music and popular urban music that fellow Chicagoans Chance the Rapper and Jamila Woods have also explored.

Jim says that Sir the Baptist is firmly based in that rich Chicago tradition of gospel music but Sir is skeptical… of faith that is not grounded in morality. He calls Deliver Me an extraordinary track. Jim praises the album’s deep themes. Both Jim and Greg give Saint or Sinner an enthusiastic Buy It rating.

Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval

Jim and Greg are joined this week by the talented Norwegian multidisciplinary artist Jenny Hval. After a stint fronting a gothic-metal band in Norway, she moved to Australia for college and began developing her voice as a songwriter. After returning to Norway, she released her first two albums ( To Sing You Apple Trees in 2006 and Medea in 2008) under the stage name Rockettothesky. But beginning with 2011’s Viscera, Jenny Hval has been recording under her own name. In addition to her six albums, she has also published two novels in Norwegian and has designed sound installations and performance art pieces.

Jenny Hval’s most recent album Blood Bitch found a place in Jim’s top ten list for 2016. As she explains, the record is a concept album tying together themes of vampirism, the female body, and the life of a touring musician. Jenny Hval speaks with Jim and Greg about writing the album, finding inspiration in the Arp Odyssey synthesizer, absorbing horror soundtracks, and rejecting the stereotypical persona of the female singer-songwriter.

Sample Platter: Voices of Conquest’s O Yes My Lord

Jim and Greg explore how a 1960s gospel track out of Detroit found new life recently in two contemporary tracks. Both pop duo Phantogram and Chicago rapper Common sample O Yes My Lord by Voices of Conquest on their respective songs Same Old Blues and Kingdom. The sample features a large church choir and John Bonham-like drumming. J&G discuss the origins of all three songs, and how both artists use the sample to enhance their tracks.

Greg

This week, Greg pays tribute to the late Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. Cornell died recently at age 52, and Greg is bringing his song Seasons to the Desert Island Jukebox. Seasons was a track prominently included in the 1992 Cameron Crowe film Singles, about a group of friends living and working in Seattle during the emerging 1990’s rock scene. Cornell, a talented writer and vocalist, was able to capture the atmosphere perfectly of the time with this rock ballad. While Black Hole Sun may be his signature hit, Greg thinks Seasons is the perfect song to remember Cornell by.

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