Singer/songwriter Thomas Dybdahl is a major star in his native Norway and has a growing following in Europe, but he hasn't made a noticeable dent in either the American or British marketplace, despite the fact he writes and records in English. Songs is a collection designed to introduce his music to a larger audience in English-speaking territories, and even though it was stitched together from five albums recorded between 2002 and 2010, it sounds and feels like a coherent work, with the sound and the themes consistent throughout. Dybdahl is an artist who wears his heart on his sleeve for all to see, and Songs is ideal for the sort of disappointed young romantic who has been looking for someone to listen to as they gaze into the star-lit sky since they lost their Jeff Buckley CDs in a bad breakup. While Dybdahl lacks Buckley's vocal clarity or multi-octave range, he conjures up a bit of the same mood and texture, and throws in a bit of Antony Hegarty's passionate quaver for good measure, though there are moments where he nearly sinks to a James Blunt level of melodrama. Thankfully, Dybdahl's craft is much better than that, and there's a subtle, self-depreciated wit that runs below the surface of these songs that keep the songs from getting to be too much, and Dybdahl's production is clever and well-executed, with the arrangements (an artful blend of folk, pop, and jazz) leaving plenty of open space for the tunes to breathe and enough interesting instrumental touches (tasteful string arrangements, breathy female backing vocals, a lonesome slide guitar, a wobbly synthesizer pattern) to give individual personalities to 14 melodically similar songs. In some respects, Songs seems like a confident and carefully assembled debut that Dybdahl had the luxury of constructing over the course of eight years, but its coherence speaks of a consistency of vision that walks hand in hand with Dybdahl's gifts as a composer and studio artist, and if you're at all interested in his body of work, Songs is an excellent way to explore his relief maps of the heart and soul.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming