Review Summary: Soul soothing Norwegian blend of folk/Americana/indie pop and R&B...
After a 4-year gap, Norwegian singer songwriter, Thomas Dybdahl is back with a new record. Its title was taken from a song off the deluxe edition of his excellent 2013 LP, What’s Left Is Forever
, also signaling a connection between the two. The Great Plains
goes down the same eclectic path, blending indie pop, Americana, folk and R&B into one warm mix. Albeit slightly more subdued than on its predecessor, Thomas guides us through an emotional rollercoaster as each song manages to create detailed pictures of certain moments in life whether uplifting or nostalgic.
Dybdahl always stood somewhere between mainstream and underground, because his albums are a bit too complex for random listeners. They are not such an easy listen, always anxious to delve deeper into moody territory. Since Waiting for that One Clear Moment
, he gradually moved towards poppier sounds, but keeping that classy attitude. What’s Left Is Forever
brought best together the two main trademarks he’s been alternating and most probably that newfound stability was the starting point here. The most touching songs on the record are undoubtedly ‘Baby Blue’ and ‘Bleed’, two gorgeous, mainly acoustic epics. The former builds a cozy atmosphere based on a picked, country blues rhythm, on top of which an electric guitar and keyboards add lovely leads. Nevertheless, Thomas’ smoky voice is the main focus, especially when doubled. ‘Bleed’ closes the album with an elegant slow beat and sparse instrumentation. The vocals grow with each verse as a piano plays some melancholic notes throughout. What I love most is the difference between the choruses and verses, where everything seems to catch life and then fall back into a lethargic state.
On the contrast, ‘3 Mile Harbor’, ‘Like Bonnie & Clyde’ and ‘Just a Little Bit’ bring the energy The Great Plains
needs. Perhaps closest to the pop tunes of the previous album (‘Man on a Wire’ to be more specific), ‘3 Mile Harbor’ brings the sweetest sounds, especially during the infectious chorus where Dybdahl’s falsetto is truly charming. Meanwhile, the piano and acoustic guitar-led boogie of ‘Like Bonnie & Clyde’ is damn catchy and (again) the vocals are truly noteworthy, whereas ‘Just a Little Bit’ boasts a cool R&B groove that would make George Michael (RIP) dance. The vintage electronic elements give an old school vibe with sudden detours and heavy bass intrusions. Even though it’s not an odd number in his catalog, here it definitely stands out as it is the only track going in this direction. Another beautiful song is ‘No Turning Back’, which fuses the Americana influences with faint dance beats. Shy at first, the summery strums push forward until everything unfolds on the chorus. Halfway, violins enhance the feel and take the spotlight with some rather dissonant leads towards the end. Then, after an eerie, vocoded mid-segment, we get a proper grand finale. The music is strangely uplifting though the lyrics tend to be more pessimistic in nature.
Overall, The Great Plains
does a fine job in offering fans another set of delightful tracks. Even so, in my opinion, as a whole it doesn’t surpass What’s Left Is Forever
. The best songs here match those peaks though, but there is less diversity throughout. I don’t want this to be seen like a flaw, because these are solid tunes. Thomas’ voice has never sounded better and the meticulous arrangements are beautifully unfolding with each listen. Definitely worth checking it out, dig it!