Review Summary: Less an affectionate love - more a desperate obsession.Ten Love Songs
. It gives the impression of a bouncy, excitable series of tracks; a romp of overwhelming positivity, bursting at the seams with joy and rainbows - but it’s safe to say that Ten Love Songs
is the most misleading album title of 2015 thus far. Susanne Sundfor didn’t lie to us, it certainly focuses on love, but she evades the beaten path by examining this tired subject from a unique and uncomfortable angle. Where a romantic sees unrequited love, a pessimist sees deluded infatuation – it’s all about perspective. When someone important stops returning your affection, it’s only natural to wallow in regret. You can’t just immediately stop loving someone, but there’s also a very fine line between the saddening inability to let go and an unhealthy obsession with something that needs to be left in the past; a line that Sundfor is all too familiar with.
This is an awkward waltz between two very uncertain and imperfect lovers, wrapped up in an equally unstable musical package. The backbone of upbeat electro-pop is built up in strange directions, with ethereal vocal hooks and driving percussion suddenly ceding ground to an orchestra for the climax, or an organ for the more poignant emotional moments. Even looking at the album from a birds-eye view, the flow of the album comes to a conclusion in the penultimate track, after which the audience is suddenly and inexplicably thrown into 3 minutes of grimy electronica. There’s almost no rhyme or reason to the album’s structure, and an absurd amount of variety is displayed throughout, furthering its flighty demeanour and weakening the foundations that hold everything up. It’s almost impossible to ascertain what direction the album will travel next, and despite love being the overarching theme that keeps Ten Love Songs
together, it exists more as a framework for Sundfor to cover with her misgivings and insecurities. She is heartbreakingly unsure of herself, and the audience can see her mental state crumbling as she moves from denial (“Cause baby I know that I'll always be waiting/and you'll always want to come back”) to depression (“I know you're lonely/I can feel in/In the way you hold me”) and suddenly to the violent and obsessive (“Bear the cross, die for love/Crucify them, kill for love”), often within a single song. When the morose ‘Silencer’ opens with “a gun in my hand” and later says “a bullet pierced your heart”, you’re legitimately worried she just killed him with her own hands. It’s a sour album dressed up as a sweet tart – maybe not as immediate and accessible as you expected, but just as delicious given the right mindset.
Despite a loose pop label, it wouldn’t be surprising if this album gains no traction outside of Sundfor’s home country Norway. Despite some sugary hooks and a bewitching vocal performance, where Ten Love Songs
succeeds is in juxtaposition, an artistic element that is often lost on the greater community. It can be scatterbrained at times; equal parts visceral and sterile, raw and pristine, human and manufactured - but there’s a fragile equilibrium here. Sometimes it’s punctured by particularly clunky transitions or extended orchestral interludes (‘Memorial’ being the grossest offender), but the atmosphere is never shattered entirely, which is what allows the album to stand tall amongst its contenders. It’s got that undeniable, raw humanity that makes you want to look away. All this self-destructive angst and frustration makes it uncomfortably relatable, and allows it to resonate with the part of ourselves that we all try to deny. In Sundfor’s own words, “We have different heartbeats/but all the same heartbreak”.