Scott Mildenhall: When Susanne Sundfør told of how “you gave me my very first gun” with disconcerting wooziness a few years ago, she didn’t commit or admit to any shooting. It seemed ominously disingenuous, but perhaps it wasn’t. Why shoot anyone when you can get them to do it themselves? Lesser vocalists could not carry this off. Sundfør is an all-too-present spectre on the brink of anger, better encountered deranged than enraged. All around is absurdity — actual gunshots! — but such vocal suppleness more than legitimises it, enabling an unrivallable performance. She’s on a mountain with a storm-blue sky, she’s alone in a capacious church; she’s coming up the stairs. Strings are concealed like incidental music and whole layers of sound merely overlook her, because everything is played out from the centre, and she does so to a T.
Katherine St Asaph: My favorite Susanne Sundfør track is the excellently titled “Knight of Noir,” off The Brothel; “Delirious” finds her promoted to vengeful vassal, surveying her tract of synthesizers and the men who’ve had the blissful misfortune of being within eyeshot, emphasis on “shot.” If you’d asked me around last album, I’d have said her voice is too reedy-plummy to go full pop; but now she’s done it, and would you be the one to tell her no?
Anthony Easton: I like when singer-songwriters move away from just the piano or acoustic guitar and put everything into an atmospheric/orchestral direction. That her voice doesn’t come until almost a minute in, a minute that sounds like something you would test a late-’60s hi-fi with, is almost as exciting as those Abbey Road infused strings at the end. I can’t wait for the house remix, for how much this flirts with disco.
Maxwell Cavaseno: You’re grabbing up a box of popcorn out of your friend’s hand, dodging flicked Junior Mints when the movie is ready to start. Susanne is here, with a voice that sounds like the spiral curls of a maiden who raises animals on a farm, while she is surrounded by the sorts of sounds that sound like the cattle led on assembly line getting murked off like out of Albini’s “Cables.” Unfortunately, the frenzy is so apparent that you can’t really be sure if it was Susanne or that mysterious other who started it. You just know that all bets were off, and everything fucking blew up, and you had to stand up and say, “That was raw!”
Alfred Soto: The LucasFilm LTD introduction is a red herring, but it adds an extra minute to a midtempo dance number with decent sequencer, excellent doomy string section, and dumb vampiric tropes. Who knows? Chop off that first minute and begin with the “victim #1″ chorus and you would have had classic gothic dance histrionics.
Moses Kim: The first minute promises much, a vengeful voice rising over the ashes of burnt violins — but then it’s all thrown away for a retread of “Like A Prayer.” There are intermittent moments of danger and discord, like when the percussion rattles off a series of gunshots, but every time this is about to deviate into something interesting it retreats back into familiar territory.
Iain Mew: What could possibly justify this much build-up, stretched out tight? “I hope you’ve got a safety net ’cause I’m gonna push you over the edge” as line one more than answers, but the cleverest thing about “Delirious” is that it never quite takes that plunge. Instead it’s a high-wire journey, swaying like it could go any way but never knocked over by too many epic elements at once, even with all the strings and vicious drums at various points. It’s a match to the uncertainty of the lyrical conflict, which Sundfør plays brilliantly, every bit as believable as the vengeful aggressor or the wronged party.
Kat Stevens: Intriguing THX-meets-Roygbiv intro; murderballad melody dodging all over the bloody place; ticka-ticka momentum. On paper the ingredients are great but in reality it’s just missing a bit of charm.
Will Adams: It’s journey of a track, from the cinematic opening to the spiky synths to the harmonic modulation, but its extended songwriting is in need of more structure. Sundfør commands each section; as a whole, it doesn’t quite hold together.
W.B. Swygart: So: this could benefit from losing at least a minute to 90 seconds from its runtime, there’s a couple too many layers of meringue for its own good, it suddenly runs out of road at around the fourth or fifth “delib-ur-ett, done with intent,” and I’m fairly sure “repent” isn’t a noun. But god, the way Evil Laura Cantrell sings the title, the way it starts at the base of the spine then spirals up the vertebrae and out – the damn drama, as she pivots, swoops in and out of the spotlights, gazes from the windows, addresses the masses from the balcony, swivels, then straight down the lens: “I-am-not-the-one-hol-ding-the-gu-un.” *DUHNUHNUHNUHNUHNUH* The flaws get more obvious with every listen, but the thrills do not fade at all. You both know you’ll be back.
Josh Langhoff: Sundfør sets “Blank Space” malice to “Edge of Seventeen” throb and uses vocal layering strategies from both — polyphony to dazzle her hapless victim and big blocks of chorus to bowl him over. Sliding between minor keys, chiding “I told you not to come” right after chanting “come into my arms,” her intent (without repent) is clear. But I’m still not clear who’s holding the gun.