Duncan Sheik – Daylight (2003)

by Tom Johnson

I fell hard for Sheik’s highly developed melodic sense on Phantom Moon, a moody, dark, mostly acoustic album of songs about the psyche written by a friend and playwright. I stepped back through his small catalog to Humming and found the album almost as beguiling, and only his debut, self-titled album left me wanting.

As debuts go, it’s strong, but it’s obviously aimed at getting his name out there — and it did. It seemed like a logical progression: Make an impact with a big first single, then use the momentum to do the artistic things you really want to do, building a fanbase as you go and at some point you won’t need to worry about having hits.

True enough, by the time Phantom Moon came around, Sheik was more concerned with an artistic vision than having those big hits, and the downside of this was realized with exactly that — no hits. I don’t know what happened between that album and Daylight. I don’t know if Sheik panicked at losing a finicky pop-music audience or if his record company choked at the thought of seeing a possible big seller go artsy on them and insisted on something glossy, but the result is the same: a huge disappointment.

From the get-go, Daylight seems like a resurrection of the first, self-titled album, with smooth, too catchy, too easy songs that mask Sheiks true talents. Too much of the material sounds like it was written with being this TV show’s or that TV show’s big love theme in mind, with a heavy emphasis on insipid, slow-tempo ballads and turgid, overdone arrangements. The whole thing rings sadly false, and threatened to destroy the momentum of an artist who had already quickly outgrown the constraints of radio-friendly music.

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.