Susanna: Triangle

While lyrically underwhelming, Susanna's latest album is an enjoyable showcase of her enviable talents.



Label: SusannaSonata
US Release Date: 2016-04-22
UK Release Date: 2016-04-22

I often find it easiest to make realizations about the world when I'm not struggling so much to be a part of it in that moment. This isn't a new concept. People have long sought ways to gain clarity through meditation or isolation or even just by spending a day at home by yourself. Essentially it all comes down to giving yourself a moment to think, uninterrupted by societies irrevocable call.

This seemed to have worked for Norwegian artist Susanna as she made her long journey across the United States by plane. On her journey, she was said to be struck by sudden and prolific inspiration. With this "divine revelation", she knew she must point her new album, Triangle into the direction of "spirituality, belief, and superstition".

After picking such a lofty theme, Susanna attempts to ask some beautifully jarring questions in her work, such as "Where does common sense end, and belief start?" or "How we define ourselves as spiritual animals, or even something above animals -- what does that mean?", while also noting the power groups can claim through religion.

These are ideas that could lead to endless discussion, which I'd love to see the album explore. Unfortunately, while these themes may very well have impacted the music, they didn't seem to do much for the lyrics besides land on a theme.

Instead of delving into these principles, Susanna is instead complacent in just repeating spiritually topical phrases over and over again like "I am born again" or "Before the altar". With this context in mind, the songs struggle to get any message across. On their own, they don't provide much of an impact at all. Sometimes the repeated phrase isn't even remotely notable, such as the line "By the way", stated over and over again during "For My Sins".

Repeating phrases can be an effective tool in song crafting, but there needs to be a reason for doing so, and I'm not seeing one here at all. Overall, the lyrics on Triangle just aren't that significant, at least compared to expectations from hearing about Susanna's inspiration. There was an interesting moment involving wordplay though with "Triangle" being followed up by "Pyramid", but sadly nothing seemed to take advantage of the metaphoric shift from 2D to 3D. The real magic of the album lies in the music.

Susanna spends most of her time on Triangle alternating between different folk landscapes. Most of the 22 songs feature a very fluid melody, unrestrained by verses and choruses. "Burning Sea", a song according to Susanna about "giving in to something, surrender, and feeling trapped at the same time", is one of the most immediately satisfying examples of these pieces as she sings "I belong to the darkness" with both a sense of belonging and fear. This looser structure also gives Susanna a chance to flex her notable voice. "Decomposing" really allows her the time and flexibility to masterfully execute her expressive vocal runs and leaps.

Many times in the album however, the music just doesn't contain the immediacy of "Burning Sea". Many songs might start out sounding like Susanna is aimlessly wandering around the track, but with this type of music, it takes time for it to soak in. After a few listens, the album becomes more enjoyable. However, not every instance is so easily alleviated.

With an astounding 22 songs to its name, Triangle is bound to have some filler on it. Tracks like "Before The Altar", "Shepherd", and much of "The Fire" aren't bad per se, but are noticeably weaker than the majority of the album. And when you have 22 tracks running over an hour, every weak moment is going to feel increasing taxing to the listener.

While many songs fall under a looser category, some of the best songs are more structured. "Hole" is one of few examples of a pop song, as well as one of the best songs on the album. It features an impressive display of swirling synths and an infectious melody. "Texture Within" is a gorgeous ballad set to piano and Susanna's understated production. Speaking of production, tracks like "Fear and Terror" and "Purple" really come into their own through her masterful skills. However, even her subtler insertions can leave a big impact on a track.

Overall, Triangle is a pretty enjoyable album. It might take a while to get into, but it's a worthwhile experience if you take the time to get to know the music. Throughout the lengthy and diverse selection of music, you'll find there's a lot to love here, especially Susanna's expressive voice and the fine production. But that only makes for one side of the triangle, if you will. Had the lyrics been more representative of the source material, we'd be hearing all three sides, and the album would fully sound as intended.

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