Duncan Sheik

Atlantic Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


You know what? I really hate that I missed this CD when it came out. See, I like Duncan Sheik; I have since his incredible debut single, "Barely Breathing," in 1996. However, I admit to having lost track of him when he released 2001's Phantom Moon with its stripped-down arrangements and heavy Nick Drake influence. It seemed that Sheik would forever be a bit too quiet for my tastes -- which I considered a shame, since he wrote damn fine pop songs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fast forward to 2004. I'm hanging out in my local used record shop and I see Sheik's 2002 release, Daylight, in the resale racks. What the heck; I'll grab it. (It was a good day that day; I also got Ashley MacIsaac's 2003 Decca debut; that'll show up here at some point.) It turned out to be a good move; Daylight is one of the tightest and clearest recordings of intelligent pop music I've had the privilege to listen to in a long time.

The producer on Daylight, Patrick Leonard, is probably best known for his work with Madonna and Elton John. However, if you're expecting mainstream on this CD, please also remember that Leonard was one half of the great progressive pop duo Toy Matinee, whose single 1990 CD is one of my favorites. As such, the sound on Daylight is a little richer and lusher than past Sheik efforts, but never cloying; you can still, above all else, hear the songs and the lyrics, and that's what really matters.

Sheik's voice, alternately ironic, expressive, and pensive, is a magnificent instrument. Understated in its skill, he makes the O. Henry-like twists on songs like "Genius" cut deep. Add in more hooks than a bass tournament, and you have one fine CD. Tracks worth noticing include the single "On A High," with its Beatlesque wordplay; the elegant "Such Reveries"; and the bitter, biting "Good Morning!" Special praise, though, has to be saved for the heartbreakingingly lovely and devastatingly heartfelt "Half-Life." This may be the greatest song Sheik has ever written, and he spares no effort and pulls no punches in slamming it home. The only weak point on the album, "Magazines," is merely a less talented replowing of the field J. Geils tore up in "Centerfold," but that's what CD programming is for, right?

Daylight is an excellent piece of guitar pop, intelligent enough to be worthwhile, but musical enough to be enjoyable. Check it out.

Rating: A-

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© 2004 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.