Duncan Sheik | White Limousine (Zoe)

Listening to the album closely on headphones in the van, it becomes my soundtrack through central Oklahoma on a sun-drenched day at the start of spring.

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Duncan Sheik’s voice and music are remarkably soothing and affirming; his lyrics, however, are intended to provoke thought. Listening to his new album, White Limousine, closely on headphones in the van, it becomes my soundtrack through central Oklahoma on a sun-drenched day at the start of spring. On the left, there’s a concrete road with a tree left intact in the middle.

“I guess they think that’s what we want,” sings Sheik on the title track, a thinly veiled message to our current administration, “a smooth and easy ride/everything is boring and everyone is bored/we have won the war.” The upbeat “Fantastic Toys and Corduroys”—a standout on this disc of slower, somber tunes—finds Sheik hitting some really nice high notes over a swelling refrain and slower stanzas. The clever “Shopping” exposes the music industry under the guise of an idol responding to his fan mail. “I Wouldn’t Mind” is Sheik’s response to the Velvet Underground’s “Perfect Day,” an attempt to embrace the simple things; still, despite its beauty, the quiet song begins to feel long before its 3:34 has concluded.

“Land” was, by far, the perfect accompaniment for my journey: “Leave town, take a ride/maybe see the countryside/all green and gold/we’ll breathe better air, I’m told.” Toward the end of the song, Sheik admits, “I’m worried too about a girl/but that’s nothing new/there’s too much else to do.” His voice, suddenly strong, is best when it’s on the upnote, the music swelling to meet him. “Star Field on Red Lines” offers a simple, precisely plucked guitar accompaniment to its political words; “The Dawn’s Request” is soaring with slightly nasal vocals and Sheik’s plea, “Leave the television on/so I don’t think of what’s gone wrong.” Closing out the disc is “Hymn,” buoyed by yet another mention of sunrise and uplifting strings.

With White Limousine, Sheik continues to shed the skin of the pop star he was once made out to be; in that idol’s place is a thoughtful and thought-provoking singer-songwriter, unafraid to strip things down. While the disc is sometimes too melancholy-sounding, too joyless, it’s overall a soothing and intelligent listen—definitely not what you find every day. And for that, I am grateful, and I hit the “repeat” button.

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