Molly Nilsson Credit: Maya Fuhr

In the autobiographical writings of historian Edward Gibbon published in 1786, the author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire wrote, “The present is a fleeting moment, the past is no more; and our prospect of futurity is dark and doubtful.” Enigmatic DIY synth-pop star Molly Nilsson shies away from such declarative statements in her interviews, but more than two centuries after Gibbon articulated those sentiments, they could certainly be applied to her tunes. Nilsson creates shimmery goth anthems that feel simultaneously anchored to 80s pop tropes yet not in step with any trend, and express a frightening awareness of how close life is to the end. Since the Swedish artist last graced the stage at the Empty Bottle six years ago she’s released four albums, each one more focused on critiquing social structures and institutions than its predecessor. On “1995,” from 2015’s Zenith, she took aim at the corporate colonization of emotional landscapes while waxing wistful on the connection she felt with the world in the mid-90s. On her new record, Twenty Twenty, she continues to explore that delicate balance of the personal and the political. Early single “A Slice of Lemon” features a music video that contrasts glacial landscapes with ice getting smaller as it floats in a drink while Nilsson sings about her “melting eyes” collapsing into “watery” tears—heartbreak mixed with environmental ruin makes a hell of a cocktail. Nilsson has rarely played the midwest, and tonight is a perfect opportunity to see a performer who articulates both the fear and possibility of our current moment, and gives us a chance to dance while the world burns.   v