Molly Nilsson, Imaginations (Night School/Dark Skies Association)
“On and on/some things are stopping us from proving them wrong/when they tell you the skies are grey/but looking through a glass of rosé/the skies are clearly pink”
Molly Nilsson is a musician/vocalist/producer originally hailing from Stockholm but now based in Berlin. Imaginations is her seventh full-length release (to go with a few EPs and singles).
Throwback 80s signifiers abound on Imaginations, but it doesn’t feel derivative. Rather, it’s an absolutely mesmerizing collection of pop music that’s only ‘indie’ in the sense that it’s likely far too interesting to be played on commercial radio.
Much of 80s popular culture – music, film, video – depicted the accumulation, loss and/or showing off of stuff – status as a means of seduction. Having lived through it, I know there was depth there for those who sought it out, but such is the collective remembrance that much of what is retained is the Rolex, the Armani suit, the several car garage as the means to whatever end. Much of what makes Imagination’s use of many of the musical signposts of this indulgence is their contrast when applied to a modern reality derived, in part, from their consequences. Songs like “Inner Cities”, “Money Never Dreams” and “Think Pink” feel Springsteenian in their uplifting portraiture of the realities of everyday life, but without teetering into mawkish platitude (pay attention, Killers). Elsewhere, tracks like opener, “Tender Surrender”, “Memory Foam” and “American Express” exude enough Avalon worthy swank and sultriness to make a pro blush. But where the suavity of the saxy sax and the glassy chords can often ring hollow, marrying it to Nilsson’s at times raw, often wry, lyricism makes it genuine. Here, the personal is political, either by encouraging a change of perspective on the grey “inner cities of our lives” by “looking through a glass of rosé” (“Think Pink”), or eschewing ‘champagne, caviar and bubble baths’ for “McDonald’s in bed” (“American Express”).
This is what makes Imaginations so enticing – it’s icy, cool-as-fuck pop veneer belying a warmth, a humanity (Book of Love, a personal fave from back when, was brought to mind). It’s pop music that likely won’t be anywhere near as popular as it should be. Borrowing from the title of a track from Nilsson’s 2010’s album, Follow the Light, these are songs they won’t be playing on the radio. But they should, damn it, they should.
Highlights include: “Memory Foam”; “Tender Surrender”; “Think Pink”; “Modern World”.