For all the heady continental philosophy references to Hegel and Foucault that pervade Jenny Hval’s latest effort, “Innocence Is Kinky,” nothing strikes the listener more than how beautifully she can sing about watching internet pornography. Yet the shock of her subject matter is undercut by the complexity of her musical arrangements, handled here by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, a compelling mix of Hval’s vocal delicacy cut up by her guitar’s angular aggression. Though the LP’s ambition is unparalleled in the genre, make no mistake: the album at hand remains firmly indie-rock oriented. As progressive as the Norwegian’s intellectual lyricism paints her perspective, the familiarity of her sound is a welcome reprieve to the anti-academics among us, offering an entryway into the oblique world of Hval’s take on twenty-first-century feminism. Perhaps her homeland Norway serves as a proper backdrop to her ambition, where she has split time as both a musician and member of the local literati. Nonetheless, listeners here will be just as drawn to her music without the need for rumination. The impact of Hval’s vocal is visceral, truly a saving grace in the moments where her language lags behind her melodic grace, often at the expense of the listener’s attention. When her expression is truly effective, it is easy to be overcome by Hval’s keen sense of self. She seems to be anticipating a wealth of talent from the empowered children of women whose legacy is liberation from gender inequality. Hval boasts as much when her delivery shifts to a conversational intonation, harkening back to the American soul singers who first brought feminism to our ears not merely through enlightening our minds, but by shaking our hips. To this end, Hval’s deep appreciation for thoughtful experimentation embodies compassion and care. And luckily for us, her career is just beginning. (Kenneth Preski)
September 29 at Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600. 7pm. $10. 21+.