Memorial, at the half way mark of ‘Ten Love Songs’, is a ten minute ode to heartbreak that exemplifies Sundfør’s bizarre concoction of styles. What begins as a sombre curio turns into a stomping power ballad and then a Rachmaninov meets Mozart orchestral piano concerto with an expansive melody that Matt Bellamy would be proud of. It illustrates not only the change of styles between songs but within them too: the preceding Kamikaze turns an electronic disco track into a haunting harpsichord solo; the early folk sounds of Trust Me morph into widescreen moodiness.
This schizophrenic approach to musical style is perhaps indicative of the heartbreak at the core of the album. It might be called ‘Ten Love Songs’ but in Sundfør’s world, romance isn’t easy. Opening track Darlings laments the end of a relationship (“it’s written in the stars…everything must come to an end”), whilst the rest of the album lyrically descends into Fade Away, Silencer, Kamikaze, Memorial and Delirious. There’s plenty of anger here, from Accelerate’s “wars erupting like volcanoes” to “I told you not to come, my victim number one” on Delirious, both accompanied by angular, industrial synths. Equally there is futility in the lyrics of Darlings and Kamikaze, whilst the tragedy of Slowly is summed up in the lyric “we have different heartbeats but all the same heartbreak”. She covers all aspects of her subject: noir-ish brooding, hopeless pining and pure ecstasy.
Heartbreak breeds creativity, though, and ‘Ten Love Songs’ is incredibly inventive. Sundfør’s voice lilts with raw energy through each soaring pop melody, the production shifting beneath her from weeping chamber music to industrial disco. There are magnificent juxtapositions aplenty: the archaic organ and bubbling synth bass in Fade Away; the cosmic Silencer fading into the pulsing melancholy of Kamikaze; the sumptuously crystalline Slowly pairing steel drums with space-age synths and gradually modulating chords. It all amounts to an album of glorious synthy art pop with a flair for the cinematic and a heart-wrenching, relatable core. Sundfør is already huge in her native Norway and she deserves to be over here too.
* Fade Away
Listen: 'Ten Love Songs' is available now.