Review of Thomas Dybdahl's self-titled album.
Now, if an artist releases a 'new' album that is marketed as 'a collation' of their previous four albums, it immediately raises your suspicions and begs the question why?
Norwegian Thomas Dybdahl is nothing short of a household name in his homeland. He has been compared with the likes of Tim Buckley and Nick Drake and has enjoyed rave reviews, and on the surface you can see why. Dybdahl is obviously a very capable musician; he contributed to a number of songs on Morcheeba's Deep Dive album as a vocalist and co-writer and is currently working with Damien Rice. His breathy vocals, finger picking and gentle strumming have won him a decent fan base.
Indeed the album has its upside, the beautifully delicate One Day You'll Dance For Me, New York City being one. Dybdahl's vocals are in places heart-rendingly intimate, in others ethereal, and are certainly pleasant to listen to. But on repeated listening, it becomes evident there is something missing. The gentle acoustic content is interspersed with more up-tempo complex arrangements but the overall product is still slightly middle-of-the-road.
In fact, when the vocals soar, as they do on All's Not Lost and That Great October Sound, the music kicks in and other instruments are added. It momentarily grabs your attention, the lap steel on the latter is a good example, but the increased tempo doesn't hold you for long. Lyrically too, the album is weak. I'm guessing English may not be Dybdahl's first language when he writes: 'I got stoned, in a bad motel, is where I fell'.seriously?!
The flashes of brilliance are just that unfortunately. I Need Love Baby, Love, Not Trouble, despite its awful title starts off with huge potential. The deeper, rougher more whiskey drenched vocals have immediate impact and the dark lyrics 'I'll cut you up and leave you dying' are a welcome change to the love declarations throughout. It does momentarily grab you, but then it descends into yet another sickly sweet Damien Rice esque ballad.
I think that might be the problem with this album, it's disjointed. It doesn't have an identifying sound. Maybe it's a result of being the product of four previous albums, but it just doesn't gel. It's a shame really because you get the impression Dybdahl has the potential to be brilliant.