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Tobias Froberg
Somewhere In The City
Cheap Lullaby Records
www.tobiasfroberg.com


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 introduction.

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.

-Jake McCarthy


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