Susanna and the Magical Orchestra

List of Lights and Buoys

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Albums don't come much more beautiful than List of Lights and Buoys. Susanna is singer Susanna Karolina Wallumrød, age 23 at the time of this debut CD. The Magical Orchestra is actually Jaga Jazzist keyboardist Morten Qvenild. And the music doesn't sound orchestral at all. Co-producer Andreas Mjøs (also of Jaga Jazzist) adds some vibes, timpani, guitar, and electronics. Helge Sten (aka Deathprod and a quarter of the group Supersilent) is the other co-producer; he took care of mixing and mastering duties -- one also suspects he tweaked a few electronic textures himself. But despite a certain variety in the instrumentation and an indisputable audacity in the textural dress-up, List of Lights and Buoys relies solely on the strong songwriting team of Wallumrød and Qvenild, and on Susanna's irresistibly moving, seductive torch singer of a voice. With a desire to nail the listener to his or her chair right from the start, the album opens with two highly personal interpretations. Leonard Bernstein's "Who Am I" is born out of and sent back to an electronic fog through which Susanna's voice appears like a divine lighthouse. Dolly Parton's "Jolene" provides the album's highlight, a showcase for Susanna's genuine torch singing and Qvenild's sensitive, minimal arrangements. The duo's songwriting is then allowed to shine, especially in "Friend," "Distance Blues and Theory," and the gripping "Believer"; the latter was also released on the Rune Grammofon two-CD (plus book) compilation Money Will Ruin Everything. These songs are strong examples of timeless songwriting -- the electronic vestments give them a certain edge, but don't distract from their true qualities. A must-have and one of the most promising debut albums of the year.

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