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I know they all live there now...the hip types...but I didn’t particularly like Berlin when I went. I mean I was fascinated by the wall and that but on the whole...I probably prefer Thirsk. Molly Nilsson lives in Berlin and is not, as I had hoped, the one of Harry Nilsson’s daughters who I once saw on a documentary about the drink-addled singer and whose good looks still haunt me to this day. This one eschews the sandy blond hair, piercing eyes and soft features for a harsh blond bob that doesn’t quite fit on her head and who would probably eat me whole if she saw this review.
The music she makes while thoroughly enjoyable is another shade of Zola Jesus. I remember when we first heard Zola Jesus in this office, we all laughed. I’m not sure who is laughing now but there are so many versions of her out there I’ve lost count. So we have icy synths, a slight disco flavour to the beats, and brooding vocals. Occasionally it hits paydirt, the second track ‘Philadelphia’ has a nice catchy synth motif which sounds good juxtaposed with the dark early ‘80s gothy synth leanings. Elsewhere ‘The Power Ballad’ (and yes they all kind of have that vibe) has a simple synth and drum machine melody over which Nilsson powers her way through.
Her vocals kind of have a Nico type feel to them and I am temporarily amused by the thought of the early ‘80s drug-ravaged, grumpy-as-hell Nico being forced to work with the Pet Shop Boys. But that is sometimes what this record sounds like. At its best it matches perky melodies to the sonorous, elegiac sound. The mantra appears to be (as Pitchfork once said of Zola Jesus) lady tries to make big ‘80s synth ballad music with limited equipment and a few simple melodies. More often than not it works on this darkly enjoyable record.
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