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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Nicolai Dunger
This Cloud is Learning
Overcoat Recordings

Rating: 8/10 ?

March 10, 2005
The only word fit to describe my relationship with Nicolai Dunger is "anachronistic."

I first heard about the Swedish songster sometime in 2003 in an issue of New Music Monthly that ran a review of Tranquil Isolation. The review pegged Dunger as an up-and-coming voice on the acoustic scene, and Van Morrison was listed in the "RIYL" section. As I was in an acoustic funk at the time, I wrote off the album as just another mediocre attempt by a scarf-clad bozo to sing about trees, pretty girls and/or pretty girls hiding behind trees.

After neglecting his 2003 release, I jumped at the chance to review Dunger's latest album, mainly because it was a strangely familiar name. After listening to This Cloud Is Learning several times, I was thinking about how I would write this review, mentioning how I have finally come around to appreciate Dunger and his scarf after straight up dissing him back in 03.

However, after a little Internet snooping, I came to learn that This Cloud Is Learning was actually released in 1999. His website kept talking about the latest album, but it didn't seem to be the same one I was reviewing, and every site I researched claimed that the album I was holding in my hand was released six years ago. WTF? After several minutes of confusion, I realized that the album had just been reissued in February of 2005, and Dunger did not possess the power of time travel.

Or does he? The bewilderment his album caused me was not entirely a result of biography; on This Cloud is Learning, Dunger mixes a bit of psych-folk, some gentle Califonic sensibility, and yes, Van Morrison in spades. Tracks like "This Town," and "While Birds Become Fishes" smack of Devendra Barnhart, yet "What Tomorrow" could have been a B-side to Astral Weeks. Thankfully, Dunger doesn't borrow from anyone too heavily, and the result is an eclectic but unified album that is as hard to pin down as the singer's discography.

A few songs on This Cloud Is Learning strike quickly; "Independence" is an immediate hit as is "Something In The Way," but where you would expect to find filler (songs immediately following the radio-friendly stuff), Dunger instead offers us tracks that unfold a little more with every listen. The first few times I listened to "Organ Track," I was unimpressed by the extended instrumental interlude, yet going back it makes sense as a transition from sunny tracks like "Butterflyin' Friend" to the deliciously somber "Below The Night" and "Songbegging."

If you, unlike me, have been listening to Nicolai Dunger for years and are already familiar with This Cloud, the reissue offers two bonus tracks unavailable on the original version - "This Cloud Is Learning" and "First Born Track." While the songs are lovely in their own right, they feel very much tacked-on to an album that comes to an end by track 12. The title track seems too epic to come after the finality of "All I Know," and "First Born Track" drags its heels until the CD finally spins down. I'm all for bonus material, but only when it adds something to the original (I'm lookin' at you, Snickers Cruncher). This is a minor setback to a fine record, and I'll be listening to it all week to make up for lost time… at least I think it's lost time.

Reviewed by Andy Brown
A regular contributor to LAS, Andy Brown lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but doesn\'t think he has an accent.

See other reviews by Andy Brown



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