Swedish synth-pop warbler Molly Nilsson’s new album Twenty Twenty opens with the line: “It was a late capitalist night/ And I was feelin’ alright/ It was a pre-apocalypse time/ And I was livin’ the good life.” It’s a gloomy thought, but she sings it tenderly, like she’s reminiscing about drunken college weekends instead of a civilization’s last days before implosion.
The line, off “Every Night Is New,” is a pretty good encapsulation — or at least preview — of what’s to come. On Twenty Twenty, Nilsson dreams about endings with faith in nothing. But she offers very little grief, despair, or rage, and no calls to action to speak of, despite the album’s political nature. The singer-songwriter instead puzzles ambivalently over what it means to be alive right now, when you feel like this, and what forms of salvation and meaning might be lurking in our daily lives.
It’s a poignant attitude that feels incredibly honest, given that many of us probably find ourselves in a similar headspace from time to time, if not all the time. The mismatch of her depressive musings and the warm, blasé vocals and dreamy-drowsy swaths of sound she dowses them in, provides a bearable middle-ground between nihilism and righteous rage in which to express these kinds of feelings. When you get past panic and outrage, there’s a bit more room to breathe and think, and this freeing space is the beauty of Twenty Twenty.
She previously offered this anecdote about the album’s title:
After a cancelled flight I found myself stranded at the Tokyo airport overnight. Between my interrupted bench naps the surroundings found their way into my dreams, particularly the big banners in the departure hall stating: 2020. Not aware that they were announcing upcoming Olympic games, my imagination wandered. 2020, a leap year. The year of the rat, the election. Perfect vision. The year of hindsight. The repetition, the ritual of the superstitious. A spell cast on the approaching future; not yet there, but close enough to be seen with full clarity. The year itself seems to draw a circle around its followers, as to protect anyone who dares enter.
Nilsson introduced us to Twenty Twenty’s concept over the summer with “Days Of Dust,” “A Slice of Lemon,” and “Serious Flowers,” and now the whole thing is streaming a week ahead of release. Listen to it at NPR.
Twenty Twenty is out 11/2 on Night School Records. Pre-order it here.