Record Review: Molly Nilsson – History

Dark Skies Association | GER | CD-R | 2011 | DSA009

Molly Nilsson: History GER CD-R [2011]

  1. In Real Life
  2. You Always Hurt The One You Love
  3. I Hope You Die
  4. The Bottles Of Tomorrow
  5. Hiroshima Street
  6. Intermezzo: The Party
  7. Hotel Home
  8. City Of Atlantis
  9. Qwerty (Censored Version)
  10. The Clocks
  11. Skybound

Yesterday I found myself thinking about Molly Nilsson and that led directly to my blogging topic today. Just to state the not always obvious, I don’t write this thing in advance. There is no lead time, so I almost always write on the day of publication. I saw two shows by Molly Nilsson in the town where I live in 2012, and 2013. They were delightful concerts, in association with Alligator Indian, my favorite local act [long since absconded back to their point of origin…Central Florida]. I bought Molly’s latest CDs from the merch table and this one was just a CD-R that she might have burned on the road as needed. The artwork was stark black + white art had been printed on a laser printer and the CD-R was rubber stamped with the title. The one note of color was a red fingerprint on the back of the case insert on the number of my copy: 466.

Ms. Nilsson instantly won me over with her sonorous contralto; sounding like Nico fronting Enya. The cavernous reverb of her music production suited her vocals to perfection. She favors piano, drum machine, and often orchestral synth pads adding pizzicato chordal bursts to the music. All of which sounded like it was recorded from a concrete bunker in the next building. Really, the only music I have ever heard quite like this is Enya’s “Watermark” album, but this is far more introverted and low key for all of its bravado. Where she definitely leaves Enya scrambling in the dust is with her infinitely better lyrics.

“In Real Life” kicked off the album and immediately the scent of French Chanson wafted out of the speakers. Ms. Nilsson is Swedish, but she’s still connecting to a larger sense of Europe with her melancholy melodies. Speaking of melancholy, the next song was a cover of the chestnut “You Always Hurt The One You Love” but all she left was the lyric. She had completely re-configured the music to a new, and exciting minor key standard.

The takeaway classic here was the impossibly romantic “I Hope You Die.” The deceptive title was undercut by the full lyric which was a full inversion of the sentiment. The final verse is below. It’s simply incredible.

“Baby you’re the coolest moon when the night’s begun
And I’m a goth in the sun
And you can sleep through the summer days
I know you think I’m morbid when I say

I hope you die by my side
The two of us at the exact same time” – “I Hope You Die”

The tender ache of “Hiroshima Street” employs a vivid high key metaphor for a breakup song. Showing perhaps the emotional fortissimo that lay beneath the surface of Ms. Nilsson’s poised and elegant music. The formalism of her compositions and vocals sometimes belie the direct power of her lyrics; which lay beneath the surface. Waiting to be discovered. I truly love the winsome “Hotel Home” which functions as some sort of theme song for the peripatetic singer. It’s a heartwarming song of travel and solitude that celebrates her rootlessness.

The songs here sometimes remind me of The Cocteau Twins in that they can have big drum machine beats, yet are the furthest thing from dance fodder. With the exception of “City Of Atlantis, “ that is. The tempo there was actually fast and lively with the vibe coming down close to the widescreen sort of Ennio Morricone feel of OMD’s “Heaven Is” only with much, much better lyrics. The singalong chorus of “let them chant this, in the city of atlantis” is worthy of some sort of prize, by my reckoning.

Ms. Nilsson’s insular, yet vibrant music is paradoxical. It stand off by itself and demurely invites closer inspection. When one does, the rewards are plentiful. I only have this album and its follow up, “The Travels.” See, I told you she was peripatetic. I really need to get the three albums that have followed this one. Reviews that I have read have gotten a rapturous critical response but I’ve never seen anything by her in a store, so i guess I will have to hunker down and mail order something before I can’t afford it. Goodness knows that this album on CD-R is now on its way to three figures and far outside of my budget.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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