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Molly Nilsson: Live Review

14 February 2019 | Billie Manning

Molly Nilsson might be the most popular pop star you’ve never heard of. She has now released nine albums of her dark, lo-fi synth-pop, almost one every year since she began making music full-time. Her most recent album, Twenty-Twenty, was first conceived when she was stranded in Japan’s Tokyo airport, reading the signs promoting the 2020 Olympics, and led her on a train of creation thinking about repetition, clarity and fantasy. Twenty Twenty looks forward, but also looks inward at the self and identity.
 
The album gets a good outing at Moth Club, which is as always, a delightful venue, but its intimacy and the playfulness of its golden décor are particularly suited to Nilsson and the vibe of the album. Nilsson might hail from Sweden and reside in Berlin, but it’s unsurprising that, even being a social media-phobe, she has found a loyal Southern Californian following. As she chats sweetly with the audience, you can practically see her slow, drawling voice as arcs of sunshine coming out of her mouth, and the music is no different. Crowned by a halo of burnt tangerine hair, she even looks like California.
 
Molly Nilsson musician
Image © Silvia Conde

Nilsson is well known for doing everything herself, from production to promotion, and gigs are no exception. Some might object to the lack of band behind her, and indeed it is unusual: the crashing of live drums and twang of live guitar will always be inimitable. But having Nilsson stand up their on her own, microphone wire looped round her wrist, changing up tracks and singing out to the audience, feels appropriate; Nilsson is a lone wolf.
 
The set drifts easily from ballad to dance number; Mona-Lisa Smile and Your Shyness are two songs which prove her lyrical talent; the words are poetic; light but layered. On "Your Shyness" Nilsson croons ‘I keep wishing I'm somebody else, I keep missing out on myself’, her slow, slick vocals clashing with a faltering beat, expressing the inability to connect of which she sings. But in terms of her connection with the audience, the gig couldn’t be more intimate.
 
Though languorous, the set certainly doesn’t lack energy; the atmosphere is something like what we used to call a ‘cotch’ as teenagers, a bastardisation of the Welsh ‘cwtch’, that meant a fun gathering of people that was a bit like a party, but more laid-back. As the set finishes up, the mood is upbeat, and finally the serious Moth Club crowd is properly dancing.

Molly Nilsson continues her international tour throughout 2019. Twenty Twenty is available on Apple Music or on vinyl now.
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