Light of mood and upbeat, the productive singer’s latest LP largely impresses.
Sid Smith 2010
There’s something quite heroic about Sweden’s Nicolai Dunger. Having conducted a career that has largely taken place under the radar of widespread public acclaim, he’s nevertheless notched up over 16 surprisingly eclectic albums with a diverse cast of co-stars that stretch from Will Oldham to the Esbjörn Svensson Trio.
But while elements of his back catalogue have veered towards more experimental styles, this latest collection of songs has Dunger batting straight down the middle of the road.
His vocal delivery opts for a strained, cracked passion which works well for most of the material. Crazy Train is full of countrified low-end guitar twang and playful flutes that knowingly reference the slightly kitsch worlds you find on Lee Hazelwood albums. It’s a pastiche that’s carried off with good grace and a fair amount of charm.
The only serious misjudgment is found on Entitled to Play, a waltz-spot where Dunger reels off a homily about the importance of “being yourself” in an overbearing spoken-word American accent. One suspects it was probably intended to offer a profound insight into the human condition; but if this character sat down next to you on the bus, you’d move seat sharpish.
Elsewhere undemanding but likable happy-clappy pop tunes keep the mood light and mostly upbeat. The more sensitive side of Dunger’s personality is given full reign on the sultry ballad Tears in a Child’s Eye, where he’s joined by The Cardigans’ Nina Persson. It’s songs like this which hint at Dunger’s real talents, suggesting greater things may yet lie ahead.