Tobias Froberg already has one album under his belt. 'For Elisabeth Wherever She Is' established Froberg in some folk circles as a idiosyncratic, thoughtful singer songwriter, but failed to register on a broader level. Follow-up 'Somewhere In The City' is a more considered package, entwining a core of melodic acoustic guitar with a variety of other styles.
At times tracks on 'Somewhere In The City' have an almost gospel feel. Considering the full choral backing behind parts of 'When The Night Turns Cold', this isn't that surprising, but other sections of the same song - when Froberg goes solo with his rather thin, warbly vocal - maintain that mood. In other tracks, religion is more plainly referenced, such as on 'On God's Highway', which also sounds as though it has come straight off a lost Simon & Garfunkel record.
Froberg lists Simon & Garfunkel as an influence, but even without this admission, the evidence of his affection for them is plain to see. The meshing of minor chords and gentle vocals at times strays a little too far onto borrowed ground, but for the most part he reinterprets the New Yorkers' style, rather than pillaging it. This perhaps most true on the faster moving 'Somewhere In The City', which uses a rhythm like stamping feet that is reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel's more upbeat tracks, but with a more straight-forward delivery and without the fuss.
Froberg's voice is one of the most difficult aspects of this album. Though it initially seems reedy and undependable, with more listens he gains a mournful gravitas. Superficially superficial, the hairline fractures and misshapen protrusions are ultimately what draw you into the emotive small print of his songs.
Some of the most beautiful tracks owe a great deal to their simplicity. On 'The Features Of A Human Face' a reverberating acoustic refrain - complete with the sound of fingers moving on strings - both anticipates and echoes Froberg's vocal. The addition of ultra-soft female vocals and some unnecessary keyboards threaten to make a good song unbearably twee - indeed there may be some for which it is too much.
Accept the high cliche count, however, and Froberg is extremely listenable. This is most obvious on the immediately engaging 'What A Day'. Sounding a little like the soundtrack to a Tetley Tea commercial, the simple vocal makes this a depression-busting, smile-on-your-face, spring in your step, cold water splash of a song. The repeated lyrics may be unutterably cheesy - "What a day / I'm just walking with my friends around me / What a day / I just let the sunshine surround me" - but they perfectly encapsulate the sentiment of those rare moments of absolute contentment.
For this, if for no other reason, Froberg is worth seeking out, but it is highly likely that, if the effort is made, 'What A Day' will not be the only reward. Whilst not faultless, 'Somewhere In The City' is an album of thoughtful texture and variety, like a quirky yet beautiful picture, painted on a borrowed canvas, using other people's paint.
[This is reproduced with permission from New Noise:
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