Duncan Sheik

Sony, 2015


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Portrait Of The Artist As A Bleak Older Man Who Just Doesn’t Care What Anyone Thinks Any More.

Look. Duncan Sheik has won a Tony (for Spring Awakening) and has been nominated for a Grammy (for “Barely Breathing”). He managed to turn Bret Easton Ellis – freaking American Psycho – into a successful musical. I won’t say he’s got nothing left to prove, but he’s an excellent example ofmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250  homo performeris multitalentedentis. So when he put out his first album of original songs in six years, Legerdemain, in 2015, the one thing you could probably guarantee is that it would be exactly what he wanted it to be – no more, no less.

What it is is bleak. Cool. Unflinching. Legerdemain is almost two EPs stuck together; the first half is electronic, with synthesizers and digital beats, while the second half is more stripped down, finding Sheik channeling his inner Nick Drake-fanboy persona. Where they come together is in the bitter and basic truths that Sheik refuses to sugar-coat. When the first song on your release is “Selling Out” with its matter-of-fact coda (“Cause everything I’m telling you is a song I’m selling you / Oh oh, oh oh, oh oh / You bought it all / You bought it, bought it / Even when I was selling out / You bought it, bought it / Even when I was selling out”) then it is highly unlikely the rest will be sweetness and light.

Other highlights: “Avalanche” seems to be about the inevitability of ecological collapse. “Birmingham” is life as seen through the eyes of a sneak thief and pickpocket. “Distant Lovers” is a dark paean to the difficult side of emotional entanglements. And just when the darkness gets to be too much, “So There” muses on life, our place in the cosmos, and What It Might All Mean; it doesn’t come to any conclusion, really, but at least it doesn’t come to a condemnation.

Legerdemain is, in the end, a solid piece of work. If you’re looking for “Barely Breathing”, you need to look elsewhere; that was twenty years ago, and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then. If you’re looking for something that addresses the dark, shadowed world we live in in a mature and thoughtful manner, this is a very good place to go.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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