jennywilsonGiven that she appears on the cover of Hardships! wearing a flat cap and wielding an old shotgun, you might reasonably expect that Jenny Wilson's sound is a bit idiosyncratic, odd even. This, combined with her Swedishness, might mean you'd also file her alongside figures like Frida Hyvönen, and to an extent that'd be fair. But if Hardships! is compared to Hyvönen's recent release Silence Is Wild (reviewed here), we'll find that Wilson is a lot more consistent in style and tone than her fellow Swede, even if there are some similarities in their off-kilter vocal and lyrical styles. Often ominous and piano-dominated, Hardships! is a a sophisticated and frequently nervy pop record. It's sophisticated in that Wilson is interested in pushing a few pop boundaries. We're used to hearing up-market pop with plentiful string accompaniment and so on so she's not hugely innovative instrumentally speaking, but these songs frequently push towards (and beyond) the five minute mark, which reflects the kind of wordy, elegant narratives Wilson is trying to craft. Opener 'The Path' is played out like a slightly bizarre life story, for example, but its ambition and sheer length make it a slightly daft choice for an opener - often, the album's shorter and/or more upbeat tracks prove more engaging and effective. 'The Wooden Chair', for example (available on the current TLOBF Playlist), immediately piques your interest with its startling bassy-ness, and then grabs it fully with its swollen, omimous chorus. It's an example of Wilson at her best, and it demands attention in the way that her weaker moments here fail to emulate. The better moments remain in the majority though  - there's the energetic title track, which interestingly acts as the album's narrative lynchpin, referencing some of the other songs. It has its own prequel track of sorts, the 70-second "Motherhood" which is almost a capella and is characterised by a fade-in which takes up a hefty chunk of its brief length. Elsewhere there's the lush baroque pop of "Porcelain Castle" and the lengthy, poignant piano ballad "We Had Everything", which is the album's most successful long-form effort, remaining engaging throughout its length as eventually backing vocals, gentle clicks as percussion, and serene strings embellish the sound.Hardships! is not exactly a direct album. It takes a few listens to prise its outer layers of idiosyncrasy off to examine the juicy songfulness within. For those with the patience to undergo this process though, there are ample rewards to be had. 73%Jenny Wilson on MySpace