Review Summary: Pop music that demands a single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man's hat.
Jenny Wilson is friggin’ weird. There’s no two ways about it, and with her debut album Love and Youth
in 2005, the Swedish songstress made sure of this. It was an album replete with thickly layered harmonies, intricate percussion and highly imaginative lyrical artistry- and for the most part, it was a success of the pop/eletronica/world music hybrid currently a la mode. But how to follow up such an act? More of the same? Sure, it’s an option, but you risk sounding stale and ultimately have those formerly taking an interest becoming dissatisfied. Wilson has taken said risk on her sophomore, Hardships!
, and it seems, sadly was not worth it, ending up a cluttered mess of ideas with no real direction.
“I wanted to be born, so I crawled out in the middle of the night…out of my mother”. This bizarre and slightly uncomfortable line is what opens the album on “The Path”. The whole record continues with references to motherhood, which indicates that some kind of point is trying to be made. If there was a purpose to these songs, it really must have been glossed over in favour of eccentric vocal turns, boring rhythms and irritating hooks.
Whilst Wilson has not lost any depth or versatility as a vocalist, she has certainly lost the charm that made Love and Youth so interesting to listen to. The backdrops in which the voice is to be found really don’t assist matters much further; with nearly every track favouring off-kilter piano paired with the same stupid handclaps (both electronic and handmade – geddit?) and pointless lyrical content. “Clattering Hooves” is all about clattering hooves, “Only Here for the Fight” is about only being here for the fight, “Motherhood” is all about motherhood…you get the idea. And instead of the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink instrumentation coming across as creative and fun, it ends up just sounding gratuitous and excessive. Seriously, who uses fucking sax solos anymore?
What’s worse is the fact that there are only two types of song here- the attempts at piano ballads and the attempts at upbeat pop. At times, it’s hard to differentiate between songs (take “We Had Everything” and “Strings of Glass” as an example), and at practically every twist and turn of the record you’re hoping for the energy to lift and for the intrigue to grow…alas, no. The lethargy abides within every nook and cranny of Hardships!
Really, could it be that Jenny Wilson is trying too hard to stand out, when she already managed to with half the intemperance and twice the success rate? It boggles the mind, and certainly leaves the listener in an awkward position.
This is not a recommended listen; it can hardly even be described as a “fans-only” affair. Hardships!
may feature exclamation in its punctuation, but ends up deserving something more along the lines of several question marks.