The sonic equivalent of throwing open the drapes and letting the light in, the follow-up to David Gray’s underrated 2002 long-player A New Day at Midnight is a revivifying expansion of his traditionally spare sound. Teaming with producer Marius de Vries, Gray largely discards the austere, deadly serious singer-songwriter shtick in favor of a lush, cinematic canvas upon which he reliably spins his literate, melodic rock. Traces of the earlier, more electronically inclined White Ladder are apparent but few; Gray generally shies away from techniques relied upon before, content to plow new ground. Life In Slow Motion finds the English troubadour in a somewhat sunnier mood than on its introspective, autumnal predecessor. Lead single “The One I Love” playfully cribs from Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” while “Lately” eerily channels Van Morrison, but regardless of the sonic homages, Gray’s trademarked dense narratives of the human heart still captivate. Working with de Vries and his trusted percussionist Clune, Gray seems unfettered by the trappings of his past—the one-two punch of the achingly beautiful “Ain’t No Love” and the sprightly “Hospital Food” are but a few of the album’s highlights. Winnowing the disc down to 10 tracks leaves little room for filler and if any is present, it’s probably the overly earnest “Nos Da Caraid.” Much of Life In Slow Motion feels contemplative, but not morosely so—the devastating repetition of “Slow Motion” captures a relationship crumbling before your eyes while “Now & Always” is a bittersweet love note to a special someone. The bracing, deliberate pace of the album (hey, it’s an album title that fits) may frustrate those in search of another “Babylon,” but, unhurried and indifferent, Gray fashions this compelling, low-key collection of work that ranks among one of the more worthwhile records released in a while.
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