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'The Brothel' by Susanne Sundfor

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Susanne Sundfor: Ruins Within Ruins

Susanne Sundfor: Ruins Within Ruins

'The Brothel' by Susanne Sundfor

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Susanne Sundfor's wounded voice and densely worded narrative fuel the foreboding aura of "The Brothel." courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist

Susanne Sundfor's wounded voice and densely worded narrative fuel the foreboding aura of "The Brothel."

courtesy of the artist

Monday's Pick

  • Song: "The Brothel"
  • Artist: Susanne Sundfor
  • CD: The Brothel
  • Genre: Rock

Susanne Sundfor sounds haunted in "The Brothel," the nightmarish first single from her album of the same name. The song creeps through its chord changes, with droning keyboards and the shadowy sound of an electric piano providing the bulk of the music, but Sundfor's wounded voice and densely worded narrative are what fuel the tune's foreboding aura.

It's also an unexpected turn from her past recordings, on which the 24-year-old Norwegian came across like Rufus Wainwright channeling Kate Bush. But "The Brothel" — both the song and the album — stakes a claim in the avant-garde singer-songwriter territory occupied by singular talents such as Joanna Newsom and Antony Hegarty.

The words to "The Brothel" feature poisoned spirits with "crooked fingers knocking on windows without souls," in a place where "bodies are swinging from rooftops and poles." When Sundfor gets to the chorus, her voice is layered into a Greek chorus of pain before she concludes with the statement, "God has left me anyway," which she sings with a gentle, almost Billie Holiday-like creak.

But after more than five minutes of existential despair, the song's coda enters lullaby-land and offers the briefest glimpse of hope: "There are echoes lost in the garden / Is anybody listening? / They whisper: 'The ones who are only living are the ones who are only dying.' " Someone else's misery has rarely sounded so beautiful.

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