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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 227 - 03/05/15

Susanne Sundfør
Ten Love Songs
Warner Music Norway

I had a plan to review Bow To Each Other's new EP, Like I Never Left. Instead I ended up checking out acclaimed artist Susanne Sundfør's new album. Sundfør produced Bow To Each Other's sparkling debut album, The Urge Drums last year. I will get back to BTEO next moonth. Now, it is time for the big sound and the big drama love songs. The many moods of love. Ten Love Songs. Susanne Sundfør 5th (or 6th) album.

Already back in late October 2014, "Fade Away" was launched as the album's first single. It is a shameless pop song. Catchy, almost swaggering. Maybe, in some way leaning (too) deep into Robyn-land. Anyway, Susanne Sundfør is a very fearless artist with a certain integrity, with character and honesty as important and central cues. The young artist (she turns 29 later this month) has had her special place on the musical map in Norway since her breakthrough with the self-titled debut album in 2007, through the highly acclaimed albums The Brothel (EMI 2010) and The Silicone Veil (EMI 2012) up to her newest palette of songs. Sundfør's second album, Take One (EMI 2008) was recorded live, in one single take. In 2010, Sundfør was one of four artists/bands (along with Casiokids, Moddi, Shining) awarded the Norwegian pop band a-ha's talent grant (about £100,000 each, as well as a support slot for the legendary popsters for their final tour). In 2011, Sundfør put out an instrumental studio album, A Night At Salle Pleyel, in collaboration with a team of keyboardists/pianists: Morten Qvenild (formerly of Shining, Jaga Jazzist, Susanna & the Magical Orchestra, and many more); Ådne Meisfjord (of The Beautiful People/120 Days; Øystein Moen (formerly of Puma, ex-Jaga Jazzist); and Christian Wallumrød).

Now, the love songs. With Ten Love Songs I guess some was eager to hear Sundfør's album to get all the little secrets from her love and relationship life. The dirt. Nothing hidden. Well, it is not like that. Where The Silicone Veil centred on 'the blurred boundaries of states of being, between life and death, between people, between us and the Earth', or, to quote Sundfør's summarisation: 'Apocalypse, death, love and snow'. Well, this one is about love, but also hate, and probably anger, regrets, joy, sadness and remorse. However, she doesn't become too direct, or too straightforward through the 10 songs. The opening "Darlings" is a strong song, with its opening line: 'So, it's definite, then'. The heat is on. A small taster of discomfort, within a most elegant song. The driving intensity of the swirling pop tune "Accelerate" (done with Jonathan Bates AKA Big Black Delta) is very catchy, even though the classical sequence (is it Händel?) is somewhat cheesy sounding, but it is also a bit cool. Well, Sundfør has dropped an interesting list of influences including the late Norwegian composer (of orchestral and choral music) Knut Nystedt, Palestrina [hmmm, is that the Italian city or the opera by Hans Pfitzner...?], Georg Friedrich Händel, Burial, Sylvia Plath, Jonny Greenwood [of Radiohead], Philip Glass, Marissa Nadler, Taylor Swift.

The quiet "Silencer" is a fine little piece of music. What is so good about Sundfør, is that she can switch from grandiose, catchy pop to calm, low-voiced ballads within seconds. From "Fade Away" to "Silencer". That is neat. The epic and massive "Memorial" (in collaboration with Anthony Gonzalez of M83) is the most central song, the key track on this album. But there are several great songs, plus a couple I find less interesting. Here is (as I have mentioned) shamelessly catchy pop, but sometimes I can deal with and enjoy shamelessly catchy pop. Hey, I can enjoy it - and proud of it! Like with the track "Delirious" (which is done in collaboration with Lars Horntveth, another ex-Jaga Jazzist man). However, I guess I am more thrilled by the more introvert and 'serious' songs by Sundfør. Like "Memorial", even if it is both being introvert and extrovert. Ten Love Songs is a strong album, but it is not flawless. It's an album holding magic and grace, with parts being hypnotic and beautiful, with other parts being playful and bouncy (such as "Insects"). And, it's made with love, out of love, about love. Love is all around. To quote Susanne Sundfør: 'To me, love isn't always what it seems. When I first started to work on the album, I wanted to make an album about violence, and then, as I was writing the songs, there were violent aspects, but they were usually about love or relationships, how you connect with other people. And in the end, that turned out to be Ten Love Songs'.

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