The Good: Good lyrics, Wonderful lyrics, Most of the instrumental accompaniment is cool
The Bad: Short! Awkward album assembly
The Basics: On her latest album, Susanne Sundfor creates Ten Love Songs that hold up remarkably well . . . even if the album order is sometimes odd!
When I take on a musical Artist Of The Month, eventually, I move toward an inevitable judgment: would I recommend listeners tune in to the works of the artist? My July 2015 Artist Of The Month is Susanne Sundfor and I have been on the fence about her. After a strong debut (reviewed here!), I found myself very unimpressed by The Silicone Veil (reviewed here!). With her latest album, Ten Love Songs, though, I am definitely falling into the camp of "listen to this artist!" I'm discovering that Susanne Sundfor does not release a lot of music at any one time; her albums are short. Ten Love Songs is fairly well-developed in its sound, but it is very short and the album order is somewhat baffling.
Ten Love Songs is a collection of ten interesting and good songs (it was one of the harder albums in recent memory to pick a weak track from!), but the order they are placed in makes for a more unsettling than compelling listening experience. The song "Accelerate" is followed by "Fade Away" and "Fade Away" uses a virtually identical bassline/percussion programming so the songs blend together. And after the loud, fast, energetic "Fade Away" the album hits a wall with the almost-acoustic opening to "Silencer." The album is centered around "Memorial," which is a long piece that evolves from a somewhat standard pop number into a classical/orchestral song. It's interesting, but it feels like the product of a very different album from the one containing "Kamikaze" and "Trust Me." That said, it still is a collection of singles worth investing the time in.
With only ten tracks, occupying forty-seven minutes on c.d., Ten Love Songs is short, but it is the clear, distinct creative vision of Susanne Sundfor. Sundfor wrote all of the lyrics for the songs and she composed the music for the tracks as well. As is her fashion, Sundfor provides all the main vocals and she plays instruments on each of the songs. At this point in her career, Sunfor is involved with producing her own works and she is the sole producer on six of the songs and a co-producer on the remaining four. Ten Love Songs is very much her intended musical vision.
And it is good. Instrumentally, Ten Love Songs is very ambitious. Despite "Fade Away" starting out in a way that sounds virtually identical to the track before it (and "Delirious" using a similarly-produced beat later on the album), the musical development on Ten Love Songs is impressive. "Delirious" blends keyboards, percussion and overlapping vocal tracks to accomplish exactly what it intends. Similarly, "Kamikaze" has moments of instrumental cacophany that perfectly embody the song's goals. "Slowly" and "Silencer" both use keyboards and programmed percussion to make for delightful, almost-1980's sounding, pop songs.
Vocally, Ten Love Songs has Susanne Sundfor at the top of her game. Sundfor has clear vocals and seems to effortlessly traverse the alto and soprano registers, all the while maintaining a level of articulation that makes every one of her lines clear and emotive. Sundfor is hypnotic with the way she uses her backing vocals to harmonize with her melodies on "Slowly" and Ten Love Songs does not make the mistake of ever producing the instrumental accompaniment to overwhelm the vocals.
On the lyrical front, Sundfor illustrates a real talent for musical storytelling on Ten Love Songs. First off, Susanne Sundfor has a wonderful sense of diction and an impressive ability to use imagery in her songs. With lines like "Here I stand with the gun in my hand / Waiting for the water to calm / The moonlight can barely paint / An aquarelle of coral blue and red / Like the colours / Of your lover's / Pretty eyes and hair" ("Silencer"), Sundfor sets herself apart from her contemporaries.
Susanne Sundfor's origins are in the folk tradition and on Ten Love Songs, she combines the lyrical sensibilities of a folk singer with the instrumental accompaniment of a techno-pop artist. Sunfor still sings musical storysongs with a strong, clear protagonist and intriguing imagery, like when she sings "Many people will get hurt / Take your time and I'll finish your dessert / Don't look people right in the eyes / If you can, you can / Wars erupting like volcanoes / Blood streaming down the walls / It's out of our hands, so baby let go" ("Accelerate") but she pairs the lines with more aggressive and expressive instrumental accompaniment on Ten Love Songs. Sundfor makes it work.
Even repetition does not hurt Susanne Sunfor. On "Trust Me," Sundfor repeats many of the same lines, but she creates a ponderous, heartwrenching mood that perfectly fits her lines "Nothing’s ever easy, when you take ecstasy / All you do is please me, all you do is tease me / You cannot erase me, you cannot replace me / Like they do in the movies, like they do in the movies." Finding that type of balance is a tough thing, but Sundfor creates musical themes and plays them out wonderfully on songs like "Trust Me."
Ten Love Songs shows real growth and creative mastery for Susanne Sundfor and with progress like this, it is surprising her works have not yet jumped to the U.S. to become mainstream hits here!
The best track is "Accelerate," the low point is probably "Darlings" if for no other reason than every song after it on the album is better than the album's opener. It's still not a bad song, though!
For other 2015 album releases, please check out my reviews of:
Star Wars - Wilco
Endless Forms Most Beautiful - Nightwish
The Way It Feels - Heather Nova
Emerald - Dar Williams
For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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