As well as writing her own songs, Swedish singer Sofie Livebrant has frequently been drawn to the works of esteemed writers such as Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Charles Baudelaire. In 2012, her album “Emily and I” contained eleven songs based on Emily Dickinson’s poems.
For Livebrant’s 6th album she has chosen another Emily with arrangements built around eight poems by the English novelist and poet best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights. The record was produced by Johan Lindström who also plays guitars, piano, synth and organ.
Given Emily Brontë’s brief, troubled life, it comes as no surprise that death and despondency are at the heart of her poetry. The cold, cold heart of the poet is not warmed even by the sight of blossoming Mayflowers. In Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee the imploring voice states “I know my magic powers to drive thy griefs away” but given the poet’s penchant for melancholy it would be wise to doubt this claim.
The most chilling of the songs is Deep Deep Down In The Silent Grave where a shimmering string arrangement by Hal Parfitt-Murray adds drama and pathos to the morbid reflections.
In this company, There Was A Time seems positively cheery and this is the most upbeat of the tracks. However, this in no way distracts us from desolate and profoundly lonely musings to be found in other songs like She Dried Her Tears and The Night Is Darkening.
It is not by chance that the focus on such introspective poetry coincided with the pandemic and the enforced halt to live shows. The fatalistic tone matches the general downcast mood perfectly.
Thankfully, Sophie Livebrant doesn’t fall into the trap of becoming overly mawkish. The sadness is taken as a given and is not needlessly exaggerated. Instead, Brontë’s words are beautifully and intelligently rendered into song to emphasise the delicacy and hymnal beauty of the poet’s quietly despairing reflections.