Jenny Hval's stark, stellar new album Innocence Is Kinky is currently my favorite album of 2013. As entrancing as it is unsettling, it deals with the prickly topics of gender identity and sexual politics in both a more digestible and more vulnerable manner than The Knife’s similarly-minded Shaking the Habitual (another favorite) did earlier this year. Hval frames these issues with a Masters thesis-worthy lyricism that references everyone from Renee Falconetti to the mythic Mephisto, as well assertive, evocative instrumentation that calls to mind art pop greats like Kate Bush and Yoko Ono.
All of this is enhanced by production from the incomparable John Parish. That production, combined with her own elastic vocal nuance, helps Hval command as many sonic guises as literary ones. There’s the snarling, psych-rock catharsis of “I Called,” the droning serenity of closer (and song of the year contender) “The Seer.” There’s also the sinister simmer of the opening title track, which not only sports the best opening line of any album I’ve heard in recent memory, but a mesmerizing music video as well that you can watch above if you’re not already.