It’s inevitable that, as a music fan, numerous artists the world over will pass you by. Either artists making waves decades ago or bands gathering acclaim in your very own era, creeping just outside the circumference of your cultural spectrum. I consider myself a hunter/gatherer of artistic expression, from literature to music. And as much, and as deeply, as I look, there are constant, newfound sonic loves pouring into my life. In the past couple of months alone, I have fallen in love with the likes of Daniel Johnston, Sebadoh and Cranes, and with the release of Thomas Dybdahl’s Songs, I have a new obsession.

Dybdahl is a Norwegian singer songwriter who has gained minor star status in his home country, He has five previous albums, since 2002, with each subsequent release gathering a growing fan base and an ascending amount of critical acclaim. Songs is a compilation of sorts, accumulating numerous tracks from his previous releases into one beautiful LP. The opening track is an astonishing introduction to his voice, heart and mindset, setting out the tender sense of fragility that has the unappreciated power to disarm with its honesty. This influence exerts itself onto a large swathe of the album, escalating and bounding away from the opener, ‘From Grace’. The very next track, ‘A Love Story’, tumbles into existence with a sumptuous bit of piano, accompanied by creaking doors and background noise, fathoming this sense of the personal, homemade musical emotional well, created without any intent to share with the rest of the world (however much of a travesty it would be if it were kept locked and hidden away within the mind of Dybdahl).

He’s at his most potent when musing on heartbreak, loss and despairing tales, as with ‘All’s Not Lost’, a song that uses haunting violin sweeps to dive into a pained vocal expressionism which induce an automatic, endless empathy. There are a handful of momentary letdowns as a few elements of songs fall into the folk rock trap, bumbling around without heading anywhere significant but our storyteller does well to stitch up the pieces for the most part, ramming in a wealth of experience, thought and passion via vocals that can switch from frail and feeble to deep and sonorous without any sense of shame. A perfect example of his ability, to summon this emotional palate many songwriters could never imagine, explodes in ‘It’s Always Been You’, a composition that begins with overlaid vocals repeating the title in whispers and pleas. A tender piano piece, accompanied by placid, plinking percussion, builds and crashes into these terribly stirring choruses that use the same overlay of voices to confess a full, heady and heart-stirring affection. ‘Rain Down On Me’, the penultimate track, trickles through this exquisite frailty, alluding to the weight of the world and the heft of the heart.

Thomas Dybdahl is one of those few artists who can evoke that loving emotion, then twist, turn and topple it this way and that, breaking and making hearts with his weary words, wise voice and a thriving pulse of instrumentation. He deserves to be widely heard by the apathetic and the heartbroken, the passionate and the cynical. If half of this album is not on a few hundred soundtracks, at least, by 2012, something may seriously be wrong with the state of the world’s emotional aptitude.

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