Release Date: Aug 25, 2017
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Synth Pop
It would not be surprising to hear that Susanne Sundfør possesses magical powers. Though her style is electronic interlaced with folk, there is an ethereal element to this Norwegian artist’s music that feels beyond compare. A couple of artists—Joanna Newsom and Damien Jurado—have this similar strength within their folk. These musicians produce more than an atmosphere.
Susanne Sundfør is a music icon in the making. Gifted with a voice that can be stunning and endearing, the Norwegian singer is able to place herself in any genre she picks that may favour her. Whether touring as a member of Röyksopp or collaborating with M83’s Anthony Gonzalez, Sundfør stands out for her simplicity and remarkable talents of vocal flexibility and storytelling. We can’t move forward into this year's Music For People In Trouble, her sixth album and first through Bella Union, without acknowledging the magnitude of 2015’s Ten Love Songs.
It took Susanne Sundfør a little while to break through, but with her fifth album, Ten Love Songs, she did just that. That album was a shiny electro-pop gem with a darkened heart pumping away at its centre and most recently, she popped up on a few radars when she breezed effortlessly through Scott Walker’s The Amorous Humphrey Plugg at the BBC Proms. Music For People In Trouble finds Sundfør moving away from the electronic world and embracing a more traditional singer-songwriter approach.
A concise dissection of the love song form, it was sonically challenging with a great understanding of melodic pop at its core. Its follow-up Music for People in Trouble also has a clear conceptual framework, and a similar commitment to unravelling its potential. Musically and lyrically, Music for People in Trouble retains the dark heart of the previous album, but the mood is more introspective, at least on the surface.
This return to sparer songwriting makes a stark contrast to the rich synthpop of Norwegian Sundfør’s last album, Ten Love Songs. This adventurous artist is far from the winsome charms of her folky 2007 debut, though; now, among the soft fingerpicking of Mantra, or the petal-fall piano and heavenly chorale of Undercover, there’s moody sax, meditative spoken samples and – as in The Sound of War or Mountaineers, a gothically glittering duet with John Grant – throbbing, unnerving electronic textures. As the album’s title suggests, Sundfør wishes to pour oil on the choppy waters of a weary world, and the warm clarity of her voice offers beautiful moments of respite..
2015 was supposed to be Susanne Sundfør’s breakout year following the release of the exquisite ‘Ten Love Songs’. However, despite much critical praise, the Norwegian songwriter’s masterful transition towards glistening electro pop didn’t turn out to be the all-conquering crossover moment that many predicted it to be. You could say that any body of work produced by an artist, no matter what the field, is a reaction against what has just preceded it.
With her fifth studio album, 2015's Ten Love Songs, Susanne Sundfør distilled the experimental songcraft of her earlier work - a rich aesthetic that lovingly dismantled electropop norms - into an unexpectedly accessible whole. With the emphasis on synths and melody, and with the Norwegian sculpting an ever-accessible live persona, her fanbase expanded outside of her Scandanavian stronghold (she's had three No 1 albums back home). On songs such as 'Darlings' and the epic fantasia 'Memorial', Ten Love Songs retained some of the 'what does this button do?' spirit of its predecessors, but its biggest thrills were also its leanest.