It starts with a gently-plucked Mantra. “I’m as lucky as the moon,” sings Susanne Sundfør, “on a starry night in June.” Immediately only one thought comes to mind as this campfire ditty unfurls: is this the same Susanne Sundfør that brought a fucktonne of drama on Ten Love Songs?
Well, duh, obviously not. Music For People In Trouble wears its title rather openly from the moment it begins, a series of empathetic songs that seeks to make sense of the world around it. The histrionics of her previous album are replaced with slide guitar (Reincarnation) and a folkier slant; we never thought we’d say this, but Sundfør emerges as one hell of a champion for Americana. Or at least her own version of it.
Oftentimes it’s just Sundfør’s voice and a couple of instruments. Just a piano gives her company for most of Good Luck Bad Luck, but it works in the warmest way. It fills her silences with hope, as her quiet and cloistered tale is delivered with both confidence and heart. It’s as raw as we’ve ever heard Susanne Sundfør, but it suits her unbelievably well. And as The Sound of War segues through the title track to Bedtime Story, we realise exactly what Music For People In Trouble stands for. It’s for all those vulnerable moments we daren’t share with the world, those darker recesses that battle with a search for optimism, the cloud of anxiety that doesn’t settle in a 24/7 environment.
There are moments when it feels like Songwriting 101, but there’s deception in that simplicity – these are songs that reveal more layers as they progress, but ultimately they act as a testament to their author’s intention. Leave your expectations at the door: Susanne Sundfør has managed to carve out a personal yet welcoming shelter for lost souls, and if the world really is going to end then we can’t think of a better balm for that fear than this record.