Duncan Sheik

Duncan Sheik

Phantom Moon

Nonesuch

About half way through listening to Duncan Sheik’s latest, I felt like I was floating on a cloud. Okay, that may have been because I fell asleep. But still, that’s what this record feels like in places.

Sheik, best known for his 1996 folk-pop hit “Barely Breathing,” has produced an album of airy, breathy, atmospheric tunes. The record finds him collaborating with New York playwright/lyricist Steven Sater. As the title of the record suggests, the late English folkie Nick Drake is the primary inspiration. These days, he’s best known for his song “Pink Moon,” which was featured in a Volkswagen commercial last year.

At its best, Sheik’s record has some nice musical touches: the pretty finger-picked guitar on “Longing Town,” the string section and complexity of the Sting-like “Mouth on Fire,” the dobro on “Requiescat.” And Sheik’s baritone is nicely transporting on “Sad Stephen’s Song” as he takes you to “coral cavern halls” to visit “young, fair mermaids.” But for every song like the upbeat, folk-y “A Mirror in the Heart,” there’s a dull and pretentious number like “Lo and Behold” that threatens to make the whole exercise resemble easy listening mush. And Sheik never quite achieves the emotional impact of Drake’s best melancholy work, perhaps because his words are not his own. A pleasant enough listen, but I wouldn’t recommend listening to it while driving your Volkswagen.

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