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Album Review

October 09, 1998|ELYSA GARDNER

*** 1/2 Duncan Sheik, "Humming," Atlantic. On his self-titled 1996 debut album, singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik blended a moody sophistication with an accessible persona--sensitive but not fragile, darkly passionate but not depressed--and a sure ear for radio-friendly hooks.

Sheik's second effort finds the budding smart-pop minstrel broadening both his musical palette and his perspective. The single "Bite Your Tongue" rocks harder and more buoyantly than his previous hits, while on the spare, pensive "A Body Goes Down" and the Latin-flavored "In Between," Sheik spices his complex, resonant melodies with exotic flourishes.

Sheik's lyrics, which this time emphasize social and philosophical dilemmas over romantic angst, can be equally theatrical--"Demons are working overtime / Would that I were ruled by sweet, sweet fate," he muses on "House Full of Riches"--but are also rich in unaffected insight and wry humor. On the possibly self-deprecating "Nothing Special," Sheik mocks a hip musician who, for all his arty sex appeal, can't maintain a relationship. Surely, such a guy could find some solace in the kind of long, productive career that "Humming" portends.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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