As most outlets and writers, myself included, rushed a bit prematurely to start and finish their 2011 year end features, there were albums which passed without enough recognition. Atop the list of great December releases is Molly Nilsson’s incredibly nostalgic and ethereal album History.
And shame on me for not realizing the album’s potential success, as Nilsson’s been on a solid run of releasing one to two new albums a year – a pace that’s apparently only strengthened this Swedish singer-songwriter’s craft. For the most part, the album floats along in almost complete ambivalence to the rest of the world, a sound that seems completely removed from the rest from its peers. I mean that in the most flattering sense, however, as Nilsson crafts tracks which are completely engrossing and puzzling. She appears neither referential nor aware that there are other band’s trying desperately to perfect the sound she has already mastered.
There are tracks comprised of almost all electronic components, which are ambitious and borderline faux-disco anthems. Others, like “I Hope You Die,” are more organic and traditional in a sense, but both tracks, and the rest of album as well, have dusty and industrial feel. “City of Atlantis,” one of the undoubted standouts from the album, falls within that more electronic range of songs on History. The opening minute of the track is devoted almost entirely to haunting synthesizer keys, paced at a feverish rhythm compared to the rest of the album. Especially buried eight tracks into the album, it’s a delightful and tangential break on an album that can become a little repetitive in spots. “I Hope You Die,” as I previously mentioned, falls on the opposite end of History‘s spectrum. It’s dream pop at its finest, a fine balance of lyrical longing (“the ruins of my heart stands like a coliseum”) and Nilsson’s glowing vocals. While it’s certainly not a love song, there’s a certain romantic element to all of her songs. Whether it’s explicitly stated or whether it is the way each song is produced, I couldn’t help but long for Nilsson or any other woman I’ve ever loved without actually knowing. It’s mysterious but infectious, an industrial-sounding mixtape that’s perfect for long winter nights.
If there is one thing to be said about History, it’s that it is completely beautiful. The serene and sometimes macabre landscapes which Nilsson paints are unmatched in their execution, the combination of which had me enraptured with this album for weeks on end. I’m a little disappointed I missed this a month ago when it premiered, but hopefully strong word of mouth will help promote this gem of an album.