Each and every Molly Nilsson record to date has been presented with an album cover of sparse and curious shapes shaded only in black and white. Not to get all self-righteously obvious about it all, but it’s a good summary of the music she makes. A skewed indie pop that’s far and away better than anything Ariel Pink is making, her strand of songwriting exists in the grayscale, her voice distanced, her recordings obscured by acoustics that feel somehow gothic against often twee musical arrangements. Originally released a sweet seven years ago, Night School are out to prove ‘Follow the Light’ one of her best and most succinct works. It offers stark but surreal stories over the same old lightly beguiling melodies.
Take “Meanwhile In Berlin”: it’s simple but doesn’t feel it. It offers a four four thud, a silly piano motif and groaning synth chords that place it anywhere between a ‘Holiday’ era Magnetic Fields and ‘80s synth pop. Largely, what’s great about this song is how it blurs the lines of distance, its production feeling layered and seismic but similarly close. It’s like if pop music could question your death perception. “Truth” runs two melodies against each-other and a slapping beat for a tune that feels both ominous and sparkly, Nilsson centering the song around a gulping central vocal line that recalls collaborator John Maus. “I’m Still Wearing His Jacket” is another sparse arrangement for the same instrumental set-up, blurring into the rest of the record and its hypnotic use of ‘80s pop schematics.
It’s kinda like listening to one long song, in a way, which makes it the perfect homage. Occasionally Nilsson exchanges piano leads for synth strings, as on the wonderful “Loneliness”, but this largely feels like a free-flowing loop of a record, one stuck on its own oddities. It’s a delight to listen to, stuck between a colourfully anthemic and miserably obscure sound that climaxes in the grainy but strung out synth bursts of “A Song They Won’t Be Playing On The Radio”. As good a record as it’s ever been.