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Albums of the Year 2017: Susanne Sundfør - Music For People in Trouble | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2017: Susanne Sundfør - Music For People in Trouble

Albums of the Year 2017: Susanne Sundfør - Music For People in Trouble

Norwegian chart-topper attains her apotheosis

At two minutes and 39 seconds, Music For People in Trouble’s “Good Luck Bad Luck” executes an abrupt shift. An examination of whether a liaison would end up as “an empty cup” suddenly stops and the sound of a smoky jazz combo takes over with a melody bearing no relation to what preceded it. The composition unexpectedly passes into entirely different territory after Norway's Susanne Sundfør had been singing to her piano accompaniment, .

“Good Luck Bad Luck” was, in part, inspired by Elizabeth Strout’s short story The Piano Player and the music forming the surprising coda conceptualises what might have been heard in the bar in which the story’s protagonist plays the piano.

Susanne Sundfør 2017Similarly, the album’s “The Sound of War” comes in two parts: the first a sparse disquisition in which Sundfør finger-picks an acoustic guitar; the second a lengthy marriage of shape-shifting electronica and a wordless vocal with a sepulchral melody signifying the sound of war itself.

Music For People in Trouble is a collection of songs but goes further by soundtracking the content of the songs themselves. Sundfør’s fifth album is a twin-track experience asking the listener to pay attention to the mood and substance of each song. On one hand, it is about her startling, malleable voice, the gorgeous melodies and the words sung. On the other, it is about what frames these songs: a manifestation of the experiences which have helped create them.

What's drawn from is a period of travel throughout the globe’s edgiest regions. As well as this commentary on the state of the world. personal relations are pivotal too. The profoundly haunting album closer “Mountaineers” examines environmental disaster while the subject matter of “No One Believes in Love Anymore” is explicit.

Though certainly a work of art, Music For People in Trouble is wonderfully approachable. At its heart, the album is about beautiful, heart-rending melodies. The Gram Parsons-influenced ballad “Undercover” is pop at its most eloquent.

Two More Essential Albums from 2017

Foxygen - Hang

Sumie - Lost in Light

Gigs of the Year

Žen, Kultuuriklubi Kelm, Tallinn, 1 April; Susanne Sundfør, Norwegian Wood festival, Oslo, 15 June; Mercury Rev & The Royal Northern Sinfonia, Barbican, 14 July; Karpov Not Kasparov, Kablys, Vilnius, 8 September

Track of the Year

Mammút – “Breathe Into Me”

Overleaf: watch Susanne Sundfør perform “Undercover”

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