Norwegian singer-songwriter Hanne Hukkelberg
is one of the most compelling practitioners of art-pop in the past decade; since her 2004 debut, she's made one bizarre, ramshackle, and endearing record after another. This winter she released her fourth album, Featherbrain
(Propeller), and few releases this year have so thoroughly hooked me and perplexed me. Hukkelberg seems intent on developing a new homemade sound palette for every release—this time she uses plenty of acoustic and electric guitars, but more often than not the tracks are brittle, trashy, and broken sounding, made from kalimbas, prepared piano, kitchen utensils, rocks, "clogs on a Fort Greene sewing table," harpsichord, a whistling kettle, or a baroque Gloger organ from a church in Kongsberg, Norway. On paper that might sound a bit precious and studied, but the execution mixes the whimsical and the visceral—it's more raw than cute. I've listened to Featherbrain
repeatedly, and I don't feel much closer to figuring it out—which is high praise from me. Today's 12 O'Clock Track
is the lurching, wheezing "My Devils," where blasts of noise, huge beats, and parlor-room piano provide an extreme contrast to Hukkelberg's delicate voice—though her backup singing on the chorus shows how much force that same voice can exert.