Jenny Hval
“The Practice of Love” (2019)

When winter comes, I like to walk down the road from my duplex and meditate on an empty beach looking out onto Lake Michigan. Though, usually I stay inside and put on ambient music, like Steve Hauschildt or William Basinski, and that invites the same atmosphere I would have had in the cold. My best friend and I would read each other poems or frantic stories we’d write after waking up from bizarre dreams, and sometimes we would put music to them. If we put on Madlib or Aphex Twin, all we would want to do is make our own music. With ambient, we’d just write.

This week’s record, “The Practice of Love,” by Norwegian musician Jenny Hval, is an ethereal pop album threaded with vignettes of spoken word throughout each song. The title track is exactly this: spoken as if Hval were sitting down in a therapy session, discussing the meaning of the word “love,” and why she hates it. Despite the inflections of pop music and beats, the lyrical and atmospheric compositions coupled together beg for us to listen to the album multiple times. Perhaps it’s for that reason which makes “The Practice of Love” so invigorating with its meditative qualities. I want to use Jenny Hval’s music in place of my Waking Up meditation app, essentially.

As I listen to ambient music, it’s hard not to think of the sky, let alone one of oblique contortions in the winter months. “The Practice of Love” wanders, and doesn’t know where it will land, like a feather falling from above, but with no birds in sight. Hearing the stark lyricism of Jenny Hval, even from her rockettothesky days, nudges me to text my friend with a poem. I don’t know what it will be, and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know what he thinks about it, but if he responds with song, then that will speak in place of words. For us, that’s sufficient enough.