You say I’m free now/The battle is over/And feminism is over/And socialism is over/Yeah, I say I can consume what I want now/Consume what I want now. This passage — delivered by Jenny Hval in a cracked singsong toward the end of “The Battle Is Over” — warrants quoting at length because it speaks to the myriad complexities and variance in tone that make Apocalypse, Girl one of the most astonishing albums to appear this year. The Norwegian songwriter previously issued Innocence Is Kinky in 2013, which similarly courted inscrutability while performing a sort of vividly narrated cultural flyover. Apocalypse, Girl finds Hval — who plays the Chapel (777 Valencia St., San Francisco) on Tuesday — wondering, What is soft dick rock? The question has caused critics more consternation than any five syllables in recent memory. The music, meanwhile, sounds gossamer and synthetic with fanciful flourishes that ultimately serve Hval’s voice: hushed and then huge, choral and then almost painfully alone, but always a rapturous delight. Observe, the woman lying on a red exercise ball on Apocalypse, Girl’s cover. It raised questions for the artist herself, as Hval queried in a recent interview: “Is she exhausted by the elliptical? Is she humping it? Is she humping the system?”
Jenny Hval, theorist of "soft dick rock," visits The Chapel on Tuesday, August 25.