Songwriting of an incredibly powerful reach, with penetrating tones that get to the core of the human spirit with piercing clarity
On her sixth album, Susanne Sundfør is looking to accentuate the positive. Her first large scale musical statement in five and a half years, blómi (the Norse word for ‘bloom’) is dedicated to her family but is specifically written as a love letter to her daughter, looking to provide guidance and reassurance in an unstable world. On the way it harks back to the distant past, with notable references to indigenous Nordic cultures, all the while passing traditions and beliefs from mother to child.
Despite the private nature of its genesis, blómi is an album we can all relate to. For Sundfør’s approach digs deep, looking for an antidote to the darkness of modern life as we experience it from day to day. Instead she looks to celebrate the relationships we have close around us, to recognise the good things that keep us going as well as the vibrancy of life itself – nature, feelings, connections. This celebration is done through songwriting of an incredibly powerful reach, the singer’s penetrating tones getting to the core of the human spirit with piercing clarity.
Sundfør sings with such emotion that at times your breath is clean taken away. One such occurrence is on Ashera’s Song, which cuts to the quick as she sings with celestial electronics and a mottled piano that sounds like a lute. It is as though Sundfør is imparting a song from centuries ago – which in all reality she is. rūnā has a conversational nature to begin with that recalls Joni Mitchell, yet as it grows a primal power comes through, the hymn-like surge of harmonies making the heart sing.
At the beginning of leikara ljóð we find a celebration of nature, Sundfør strolling through a meadow rich with birdsong. Absentmindedly she sings a tune under her breath, the acorn from which a powerful spiritual song grows, spreading its wings as the vocal line leaps for the heights. As an affirmation of life, it takes some beating.
The title track is dedicated to Sundfør’s young daughter. Dressed with a free saxophone line that flutters like a butterfly, it asks her to “Cherish the gift that your mother delivered”, proclaiming that “from the ashes of sorrow we will rise again.” Conversely, Fare The Well deals frankly with the end of a relationship. “Goodbye, this is the last time you look into my face – there’s no grace left here”, she sings. The outlook is largely positive, however, recognising a largely positive impact in spite of the incompatibility, and sung in a tone fans of Carole King will recognise. Alyosha has the strongest yearning. “I never even knew you were a man of faith”, Sundfor sings, before declaring to the object of her affections that “You are all that I will live for, my love”.
This is a remarkable album, even for an artist as consistently strong as Susanne Sundfør has been to date. It reaches into the centre of the human heart with primal connections that probe at its very existence. It is another striking addition to the discography of a singer who just keeps getting better and better.