Between José González and now Tobias Fröberg, Sweden must have the market cornered on skilled fingerpicking guitarists with wispy pop sensibilities. But while González favors the mystical acoustica of Nick Drake and David Crosby, Fröberg is more into Simon & Garfunkel and Belle And Sebastian. On Fröberg's new album, Somewhere In The City, he floats out songs that, in a slightly different context, could pass for "beautiful music," given the way their melodies and lyrics follow models of classicism and romanticism. But in this context, given just enough lo-fi scuff, they sound more beguilingly elusive, like half-remembered dreams of times past.
And that sense of hazy nostalgia doesn't just apply to songs like Somewhere In The City's opener "When The Night Turns Cold," or "What A Day"—both basement-built retro-pop—but also to tender ballads like "The Features of A Human Face" and "For Elisabeth Wherever You Are," where the memories of absent friends and distant places are so strong that they could stop a person cold. Fröberg's great gift is the way he can marry his breathy voice to his delicate guitar, add a little unexpected sonic texture, and come up with something that holds together, as a song and as an environment. To that end, Somewhere In the City's best song is "God's Highway," which nods to Simon & Garfunkel's "April, Come She Will," then heads toward the oddly spiritual, fully musical place where Fröberg wants to live.