Although he made a bankable name for himself among the Dawson’s Creek set with his luminous 1996 single " Barely Breathing, " singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik has largely left behind the genteel strum pop he proffered on his first two albums for the more self-consciously mature art folk here. A collaboration with New York–based playwright Steven Sater (he wrote the lyrics and Sheik the music), the disc finds the singer trying on the subdued arpeggios and hushed vocals his Brown University buddies in Ida have perfected over a clutch of sleepily smoldering discs. It’s not a bad fit: much of the material ripples with a subtlety the more radio-ready Sheik never allowed before. Tone poems like " Time and Good Fortune " retain the overt tunefulness of his older material while anchoring the hooks in the refined arrangements favored by seminal folkies like Nick Drake, whom Sheik obviously admires. Still, one of Sheik’s selling points has always been his pleasantly picayune lost-love yarns, and their absence is missed. Sater’s willowy poetry is nearly as inscrutable ( " There were mermaids, weren’t there?/Sweet, silver mermaids/All through that gray Trafalgar Square " ); it’s just not as much fun being perplexed by him as by Sheik.
Issue Date: March 15 - 22, 2001