Thomas Dybdahl


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Norwegian singer and songwriter Thomas Dybdahl is best known for conjuring up a deep and moody feel on his first three albums, but he seems to have learned how to leaven his darker moods with an air of playfulness on 2006's Science. Dybdahl remains fascinated with the disappointments of the world around him and the ache of a broken heart, and he can write with eloquence on these subjects, as "Still My Body Aches," "U" and "This Year" ably confirm. But while the music and production on Science remain low key, there's a touch of sly humor in the arrangements that gently undercuts the dour tone -- the kitchen table percussion and atonal horns on "Something Real," the deep-voiced narration on "This Year" and the light sweetness of the female vocals on "Dice" infer that while Dybdahl means what he's telling us, he doesn't think things are quite so bleak as he sometimes makes them sound. And even when he plays straight and sincere, his grasp of the rudiments of '70s L.A. folk-rock is sure and the airy, rumpled beauty of these songs lightens the load and makes this music absorbing throughout. Science is flawed by Dybdahl's Achilles'' heel, his voice, which can sound murky and flat when he isn't paying attention, but the rest of the album is sharp enough to connect even when the vocals are a bit froggy; a few sessions with a vocal coach and this guy could be a contender.

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