One Track Mind: Thomas Dolby, "Oceanea" (2011)

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He’s not the guy from the famous video anymore. Nobody’s shouting “Science!” on Thomas Dolby’s latest work, this trickling, crystalline ride through a melancholic memory.

Listening, it’s easy to picture Dolby, not in some synth-pop laboratory ala “She Blinded Me With Science,” but on the solar- and wind-powered 1930s lifeboat where he’s writing and recording these days. (Talk about new wave!) There is a concurrent ebb and flow to the record, which features a guest vocal by Eddi Reader. Together on “Oceanea,” they connect on an emotional level that much of Dolby’s work from two decades ago never aspired to. The time away has deepened his voice, but somehow opened up his heart: “I’m learning how to shed my skin,” Dolby admits at one point.

In keeping, this track won’t become the cultural touchstone that his jokey one-hit MTV wonder did. But it will stick with you longer.

Now back in his native UK after 25 years in America, Dolby is still completing the forthcoming A Map of the Floating City, which will feature appearances by other special guest artists like Mark Knopfler and Regina Spektor. In the meantime, he is issuing three digital EPs, downloadable at www.thomasdolby.com, that will comprise the upcoming full-length album. The first was Amerikana, followed now by Oceanea. The third will reportedly be entitled Urbanoia.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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