Susanne Sundfør

Music for People in Trouble

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The sixth studio long-player from the Norwegian singer/songwriter, Music for People in Trouble sees Susanne Sundfør ditching the glacial dancefloor synth pop of 2015's acclaimed Ten Love Songs and looking inward. Written during a period of personal upheaval -- a huge star in her native Norway, the success of Ten Love Songs, among other things, nearly broke her -- the stark and aptly named set delivers all of the emotional richness of its predecessor, but in a more meditative voice. Willfully intimate, Sundfør's vocals, powerful as always, are more often than not accompanied only by piano or guitar. A classically trained pianist who isn't afraid to incorporate elements of jazz, folk, and musique concrète into her pieces -- the latter disposition looms large on the fractured title cut -- Sundfør's songs are both relatable and alien; dispatches from a planet whose axis is tilted a single degree further out from the plane of its orbit around the sun than our own. Contrast is key, like the thermal pedal steel that punctuates the otherwise downcast "Reincarnation," the ambient footsteps, cell phone beeps, and wandering clarinet that highlight the cruel boredom of insomnia on the evocative "Bedtime Stories," and the arm-hair-raising crescendo of the majestic, John Grant-assisted closer "Mountaineers." Such militant introspection can sometimes be off-putting, but Music for People in Trouble is rooted in empathy, and even at its most cynical -- the woebegone "No One Believes in Love Anymore" comes to mind -- the warmth of its core radiates outward.

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