Duncan Sheik

Atlantic Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Duncan Sheik's first effort for Atlantic Records, his self-titled 1995 CD, was almost more than anyone could ask for. It had a large breakout hit, "Barely Breathing", respectable sales, and was still a relatively non-commercial disk. Sheik seems to stick to a formula of him, guitars, and strings, and doesn't much bother with adding hooks or twists to buy airplay. So now that his second CD, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Humming, is out, the question is this: did he soften his vision for airplay, or did he stick to it?

The answer, in many ways, is that he stuck to it. Humming remains a variation on the theme of his earlier work; take a well-written song in a minor key, add guitar and a deep, sweet string section, stir well, and let Rupert Hine produce to perfection. It doesn't vary much, and thusly Sheik's sound isn't for everyone; on the other hand, for what it is, it's tightly crafted and good.

If there's a complaint, it's that Sheik's music is so smooth as to run into itself. On his first CD, it was difficult to separate the last six or so tracks from each other, resulting in a musical puree of violins and acoustic guitar that went down easy but didn't leave much of an aftertaste. Humming suffers from the same problem, but it's not as bad; after a listen or two, specific tracks jump out in sharp focus. "Rubbed Out"'s theme of escapism is combined nicely with the rare sting of electric guitar; "Bite Your Tongue" echoes the Eagles' "Get Over It" in theme; and "A Body Goes Down" and "House Full Of Riches" explores even darker, almost ominous textures to Sheik's music. The flip side of this, of course, is that there are no bad tracks on Humming. Sheik doesn't take too many chances, yet, though he's starting to branch out. As a side note, I wish Rupert Hine, one of my favorite producers, would take a bit of sandpaper to the smoothness of Sheik's sound.

Humming is a good album, if you like the sort of music it is. I think it shows Sheik is just getting better; I hope he can avoid the "sophomore jinx" and keep recording. I look forward to more work from him.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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