Susanne Sundfør: Blómi review – timelessly classic songwriting

The romance and life force of 1970s singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Carole King – as well as their burned-fingers wisdom – are embodied here by Susanne Sundfør, one of Norway’s most successful singers who continues to evolve her craft upwards from her earlier synthwave and pop-folk.

There’s also a touch of Disney or musical theatre to the way ballads such as Ashera’s Song and Rūnā search out their next cadences; the latter has the same tentative-then-certain feeling as Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah but done with a Julie Andrews-ish positivity. You may need to re-notch your threshold for corniness.

But the songwriting here is often very good, even timelessly classic. Fare Thee Well is a waltzing breakup song that is a model of ending things well: Sundfør takes stock of her relationship with firmness (“I won’t come back”) and grace, expressed in a melody that is certain but gentle. Another waltz, Alyosha, is conversely a statement of eternal love: “They say life’s no point, so why bother? / Love yourself more than any other,” she sings, but then, with soaring voice and moving determination: “But that is not what I will live for.” These are big emotions painted with clarity.

The spectacular Leikara Ljóð deserves special mention: beginning with the sound of birdsong, Sundfør sings the wordless refrain – the album’s very best melody – casually as if hanging out some washing. But to a backing of handclaps and multitracked vocals, it builds into a song of gospel intensity as she demands more from a lover: “Gimme gimme gimme shock treatment / Break the ice and drown me.”

The album is bookended by two totally different tracks: bits of ambient processing thrum and burble as Sundfør speaks on the unity of spirit and body like a mindfulness podcaster whose editor has taken the day off. She finishes with an excruciatingly twee Rupi Kaur-style koan destined to be spray-stencilled on to Airbnb walls: “The word in the heart is yes.” But even though these are skippable failures, they do help to carry this beguiling album off into a strange, singular category.