Tobias Fröberg

Somewhere in the City

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In a set of explanatory notes published on his website and intended to place his songs into perspective, Swedish singer/songwriter Tobias Fröberg often makes a point of stressing the casualness of his writing and recording process. One song, he says, was recorded in the open air on a hot July day, the birds chirping above. Another was recorded on his sofa. Yet another was penned after consuming a couple of bottles of wine and still another in a guitar store. Yet despite the presumably easygoing approach to its creation, and its general minimalism, Somewhere in the City feels neither informal nor tossed off. While simplicity is its hallmark, there are also moments of deceptive complexity: layers of lush choral vocal harmonies, bold instrumental statements, words that require considerable thought. Fröberg's gentle alternative folk-pop has been compared to the likes of Paul Simon and Nick Drake (the former is evident, the latter hardly), and contemporary benchmarks might include Devendra Banhart, Damien Rice, and Bright Eyes. But there's no real reason to play spot the influence here: Fröberg is an original and Somewhere in the City, the artist's second album, is a delicious trifle. Nearly every instrument is played by Fröberg and his co-producer, Linus Larsson, and although a few guests are brought on board (Norway's Ane Brun sings a duet with Fröberg on "Love and Misery"), this is clearly not a group effort. Fröberg's skillful acoustic guitar work (again, as on "God's Highway," reminiscent of Simon's, particularly his early folk style) is smartly placed up front throughout most of the recording, miked closely and used wisely to set the pensive, sometimes melancholy mood. And that's where Fröberg feels most comfortable: in quiet reflection. When the album does, on occasion, raise its volume and venture toward rock, it feels lost, the lone exception being "When the Night Turns Cold," the opening, bongo-driven pop gem that, for some inexplicable reason, was used in a European ad for Panasonic cameras.

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