From background to foreground

blog_dsFor you I want to sing a happier song
for you I'm gonna try to right all my wrongs
for you I'm gonna break my bad habits
there's a golden ring and I want you to have it

I've been meaning to blog for a week now. Been driving around in my car, my iPod set on Duncan Sheik. Yes, I've admitted this return to the singer-songwriter genre, to finding solace and comfort in the acoustic guitar and the solo voice. These past few days have found me immersed in Duncan Sheik. I've liked him for a while, but always as background or driving music, nothing to fully immerse myself in.

However…Daylight? I remember picking it up at Boulder's Albums on the Hill three years ago, having read a great review of the disc. I brought it home, played it, found it to be good background music. Really only listened if we were having a dinner party, or I needed music for a massage.

Until last week. I don't know what prompted me to fire it up on the iPod, except that I was feeling the singer-songwriter urge and scrolling through the names when I came across Duncan Sheik. I'm not a fan, but merely a respector of the man (is that even a word?), so I own all of two albums (to be fair, I actually bought one, which is more than I can say for many of my favorite bands). Still, here we are: it's Duncan Sheik, and I really can't name a single song he sings (well, that I own, anyway).

So I listen, and I find myself absorbing his lyrics as gauze does blood (why that analogy popped into my head first, I've no idea). They're all relatable, stuff we've heard or lived through or experienced. But the language is not quite the way we'd think: it's more pensive, perhaps, more thought-provoking, even the slightest bit literate. (The man was a semiotics major at Brown, after all.)

I'm completely enthralled by the way he takes an ordinary encounter—spotting a member of the opposite sex wearing the t-shirt of a band you love—and makes it a magical situation, holding the importance of peace and life and love all at once. Or the way a marriage proposal comes off as fresh as Rhett Miller's "Question." Or the way he admits a mistake—see "Genius," Daylight's extremely catchy intro track—with remorse, passing it off as a deep character flaw.

I've long maintained that my musical hooks are as follows, and in the following order: Voice, music, lyrics. With Duncan Sheik, it's more lyrics, voice, music; there's very little rock, and for me, that's usually a detriment. But with these clever and raw lyrics and Sheik's versatile yet still human voice, somehow it all just comes together.

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