Album Review: Susanne Sundfør—“Ten Love Songs”

By Melissa Vincent

During an interview, Susanne Sundfør spoke about attempting to make an album about violence then realized they are almost always entangled with love and relationships. Instead, what she ended up with was Ten Love Songs about how individuals relate to one another. For those familiar with her earlier work, the most apparent difference on her newest album is a step towards a more pop-oriented atmosphere while remaining within the realm of sunless, baroque electronica. Throughout the album, Susanne deals with love’s ubiquitous range of iterations. While some recognize it’s sincerity and fulfilling capacity, most identify it’s incongruity and even self-destructive nature. It’s a lovers playlist for individuals who have found one another but probably shouldn’t have.

On Ten Love Songs,  Sundfør would more likely be grouped alongside Sia and Robyn than Jenny Hval or The Knife as her prior releases The Brothel or The Silicone Veil might suggest. Her collaborations with both M83 and Röyksopp speak volumes to her current associations within the global electronic scene and you can hear Anthony Gonzalez’s influence all over the album’s dramatic, orchestral centerpiece, “Memorial.” However, what was distinguished Sundfør from other vocalists who exist to  pepper IDM tracks with an anchoring chorus is her interest to experimentation.

Album art for Ten Love Songs

Album art for Ten Love Songs

Both “Fade Away” and “Slowly” employ the same goofy alien synths that Lil B is so fond of while “Insects” borrows notes from Chicago drill and abrasive glitch. It’s a brutal assault but catchy enough to have been a B-side on Primal Scream’s “Accelerator”. Elsewhere, “Kamizaze” feels fit to make appearance at Digital Dreams. Manufactured to be a dance-floor ready success, it’s blows it’s big tent appeal up with existential questions and a steady bass only to burst on an enormous EDM chorus. With actual fireworks in the hook and a neon coloured synth line, it’s demands a collective reaction that will probably be given by thousands of underage MDMA rollers. It’s tacky but catchy as fuck and you can’t help but you’re rooting for her the same way you would if Björk attempted a country song.

It’s essential to look instead at what Ten Love Songs is doing as opposed to what it is. It’s her most accessible work to date but also her strangest. While Sundfør is not the first nor will she be the last to release a weird but accessible pop album, what sets Ten Love Songs apart is how extensive that gradient is.  What she has added to the paradigm of powerful voiced, female fronted pop music are a collection of songs that can appeal to the masses without stepping outside of her her artistic comfort zone. Radio friendly anthems are placed next to a classical composition that drones beautifully for more than 10 minutes. It really shouldn’t work but it does.

While this may not be Sundfør’s most cohesive work or thematically realized work to date, it by far her boldest. Not for her 19th century eco-feminist imagery or bone tingling swing sections but by giving us an erratic pop album that breaks a mould that everyone from St. Vincent to Lorde have attempted to copyright. It is not a departure from the darkened chamber pop of her prior releases but what a step towards what that genre is allowed to encompass. On “Slowly”, Sundfor reminds us that “we have different heartbeats but all the same heartbreak”. Pop music will always hit the listener the same way but on Ten Love Songs, Sundfør reminds us how irregular that heartbeat can be. (Warner Music Norway)

Listen: “Fade Away”

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