Unless you live in Sweden or a few dozen select European and
North American cities, chances are you're unfamiliar with Tobias
Froberg. For those who gravitate toward sensitive singer-songwriter
fare like Simon & Garfunkel or Belle & Sebastian,
though, his album Somewhere In The City will be a great
Lead-off track "When The Night Turns Cold" and "What
A Day" both smack of 60's pop, but without the jangling protestations
of other retro-rockers. Statistically speaking, the rollicking
rhythms and sing-along choruses of these songs are outliers, though.
The bulk of Somewhere In The City is more divinely contemplative
than it is exuberant. Froberg's real strength is in fluttering
acoustic guitar finger-picking and wispy vocals. For an example,
see "For Elisabeth, Wherever You Are," in which Froberg
melds his own tentative voice with guitar and whistle in uncanny
union. It's tough to figure out how he brings these sounds together
so naturally - it might be that his subtle Swedish accent clips
the ends off consonants in a manner similar to a finger plucking
a string, or it might not. Regardless, the effect is beautifully
comforting songs like "God's Highway", "Someone",
and "The Features Of A Human Face".
The only flaw with Somewhere In The City lies in the lyrics,
which, occasionally grasp for rhyme and reason. The tender devotional
"Oh My Love (Here She Comes Again)" induces a blissful
lull only to jar the listener awake by describing the object of
the narrator's affection as, first, "my strawberry friend"
and then, crassly, as "my perfect ten." The ethereal
sound of Froberg's guitar and voice simply doesn't work with the
frat-boy sensibility of physicality ratings systems, and the song
suffers for it. Similar problems pop up occasionally, but only
when the listener has forgotten there were any problems with the
album at all.
There are lots of people trying to make their voice sound natural
alongside an acoustic guitar, and the rarity with which it happens
suggests it's tougher than Somewhere In The City makes
it seem. Froberg has succeeded not just at transcending the rank
and file singer-songwriters, but also in making a record that
sounds unique enough, and is consistent enough, to likely become
a few folks' favorite new record.
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