Maybe the Norwegians have a better word for singer/songwriter than we have. Conjuring up more the bedsit balladeer than someone versed in every subtlety of writing and putting together a sound this layered and perfectly formed, our meagre term does no justice to Mr. Dybdhal’s enticing Irish debut. The eponymous album is in fact a collection of Dybdahl’s first four albums mainly released in Scandinavia since 2002 though, in keeping with the music itself, the tracks are carefully chosen and balanced, and it sounds, in the main, like a full album proper and one quite packed with gems.
Dybdahl has been well known around continental Europe for the last number of years, even becoming one of the very first Takeaway Shows filmed by Vincent Moon in Paris (see below). He is one of the most popular Scandinavian artists live, and his shows are a thing of joy – every musical angle being elevated far above expectation with the tightest of live bands and a coiled-spring energy that sometimes bursts loose and brings the crowds roaring. He has just recently played yet another sold-out Copenhagen show, this time with the Danish symphony orchestra in their new concert hall, and was hardly able to leave the stage with the demand for more.
There seems to be a very tangible connection between the live and the albums. He has built a superb team of multi-instrumental musicians and the detail in the music is even more appreciated after you watch a show. The songs are never overladen, but have texture in the soft playing – brushed drums, nylon guitars and on many songs a soft but nicely paced rhythm. Then you have Dybdahl’s voice, gentle, emotional and not a million miles away from Jeff Buckley – especially in his falsettos (-I Need Love…’). He lyricises with a lot of emotion on the surface (sometimes a little too much for the more cynical souls) but just when you might feel it’s not quite your cup of tea, some swell of a melody will save it.
There isn’t really a bad track here and it would be safe to say that if you enjoy any one track on offer, you’ll enjoy the whole platter. Real treasures to get into are also the most captivating live. -Cecilia’, – From Grace’ and -All’s Not Lost’ are a good spread of what’s on offer but stick a pin in the sleeve notes and you’ll hit a great song. If the honesty and heart-on-sleeve emotions that Dybdahl crafts songs around are meat and drink to you, then don’t hesitate with this one.
Thomas Dybdahl supports Handsome Furs in The Academy on October 27 (if you only go to one small live gig this year…)