Norwegian songstress Susanne Sundfor has a habit for flitting around genres and tastes. After initially going for sweeping orchestral synth anthems she returned with some more delicate piano based music before returning for her fifth album this year which tries to bridge the lot. Ten Love Songs is just that – ten songs about love – but the breadth and depth of the music is what makes this album a success.
The simple “Darlings” opens with a harmonium and Susanne’s beautiful voice taking us through a somewhat traditional styled track that contains hints of the drama to unfurl before us. It feels somewhat of a warm up for the full on attack that is “Accelerate”. Crammed with instruments, loops, organs and demonic off key vocal delivery in the verses, it bursts into dramatic percussive explosions for the choruses. The whole song is drenched in dread and fear as Susanne sings “let’s have fun” and yet the music suggests nothing further from the truth. It’s that interplay that makes this track a stand out. “Fade Away” turns the phasers to disco as the clever bouncy keyboards create a groove behind the church organs and beautiful backing vocals. Sundfor’s penchant for great lyrics continues too with “this is the sound of my heart – the sound of lonely” – and the track lacks some bass oomph to back it up too. “Silencer” takes a gentle acoustic guitar lullaby and treats Susanne’s voice to an echoing distant reverb that softens every word spoken. It’s a dream sequence that’s equal parts charming and angelic, particularly when multiple layers of guitar and shimmering electric piano are working together. “Kamikaze” then takes every element that’s gone before it and merges it all into an amazing five minute epic adventure. It strikes the perfect balance of the previous tracks and has a catchy pop beat and melody. It’s the single that didn’t happen and is the hidden accessible gem.
Mid point through the album “Memorial” comes in at ten minutes long. Somewhat a magnus opus thrown in the middle of everything, Sundfor takes the time to build, layer and develop a theme and rhythm. It feels like a space opera with its heavy keyboard synth pad use and gothic piano mid section. The same melody transforms beyond recognition to the point where when she reprises the beginning at the end, you feel like you’ve heard different tracks between them!
“Delirious” kicks off the closing quartet with a stonking pop anthem. The bass is heavy, the vocals strong and the beat angry. This kind of music is what Susanne does best – at extremes of emotion – and rinsing everything out of it. It’s cinematic drums and retro bass lines really push the track along but it’s Susanne’s words and vocal style that allow her to switch from sassy to scary to lamenting within a single line. “Slowly” pours the reverb onto that voice for a synth pop track that is as close to the nordic heritage of ABBA as she dares get. It’s metallic and euphoric as the chorus line of “I can feel it, the way you hold” sways over and over again. “Trust Me” returns to the harmonium and removes a lot of the synth and trickery of the album for a grounded and lethargic track. It feels deliberate and laboured as the reeds blow out and Susanne stretches the pace out. It feels slightly religious in some ways, but also like she’s ridding herself of something too. It’s at that point the album fades out gracefully and then bursts into “Insects” which is looped metallic and percussive beat led track. It rumbles, sparks and bursts into angry shearing noises as a disembodied Sundfor states “don’t tell anyone that we’re having fun – don’t make a sound” before it squeals into a entranced vengeful finale with sirens blazing. I liken it to being stung by a love bug that drives you to insanity – but that’s my interpretation.
As a result, “Ten Love Songs” leaves you washed up and out of breath – and I think that’s the point. Most of these songs see a return to dramatic, cinematic and explosive adult pop and there’s few quiet moments in between – a lot like love. For the music itself – it’s a storming return to form and whilst it isn’t quite my favourite album of hers so far, it’s not far off!