Pitchfork: N/A Rolling Stone: 3/5 Metacritic: 69 Spin: N/A
Released: September 2005
The One I Love
Nos da Cariad
From Here You Can Almost See The Sea
Ain’t No Love [LISTEN]
Now and Always
Life in Slow Motion is not David Gray’s most recent album (2009’s Draw the Line). It is, however, his best one to date, as well as one of the best albums put together I’ve ever heard. It was more than just the “next step” from his previous top-sellers White Ladder and A New Day at Midnight. It was at least a couple.
I hadn’t been a longtime David Gray fan when the album was released. About a year earlier I had a faint musical memory of a beautiful guitar-driven song I’d heard years before that was sung by a guy who sounded slightly like a sheep (in a good way). The song was “Babylon”, and upon further research into his discography, discovered enough other gems (like “Please Forgive Me” and “This Year’s Love”) to soak in all his tunes and become a fledgling fan. When I heard a new album was coming out, I was mildly excited to see if there’d be another gem or two on the table. When I actually heard the album, my admiration and respect for his sound and direction multiplied.
The opening track, “Alibi”, uncharacteristically starts with a slow and eery pace with a full minute of growing but understated orchestration. It is at this point that Gray’s vocals boom through with an almost sorrowful passion (“Where’d it all go wrong,” he sings) atop a piano and string backgrop. Halfway through the song, enter the percussion and bass as the chords take a brighter turn, turning the second half of the song into an almost optimistic anthem as Gray belts, “Tonight, I’m running wild“, with his own beautifully harmonized background vocals right behind. This was a great sign for the album.
The second song, and perhaps most radio-friendly, “The One I Love”, is more characteristic David Gray…a guitar-driven, happy and heartfelt song sung to the object of his affections. It’s catchy, and worth listening to if only for the “yehee!” from Gray that follows each chorus. “Lately” sets the pace back a bit, with a laid-back, 7-beat electric guitar riff bearing the bulk of the tune’s weight, later being overpowered by piano as Gray soulfully sings “Lately, I’ve been weighed down.”
A standout track for sure is “Slow Motion”, which again utilizes a piano-driven, melancholy melody where each verse caps off with a drawn-out last word given a melody all its own. The build-up (coming off of a line like “Life in slow motion, somehow it don’t feel real”) lends itself perfectly to the climactic chorus, similar in anthemic scale but with a slightly different syntax (“Ba-da-da, ba-da-da, ba-da-da-da-daa, baa-da-da-da-wooah!”).
Another personal favorite is “Ain’t No Love”, a somber but beautifully played and sung piano and string piece with a slightly less optimistic tune: “Maybe that it would do me good if I believed there were a God out in the starry firmament/As it is that’s just a lie and I’m here eating up the boredom on an island of cement.” Gray leaves a little room for a few thundering vocal powerhouses (“No it ain’t no love guiding me”) before easing back into a gentle close.
“Disappearing World” is a closing track that refuses to either be the kind to slowly and gently wave the listener goodbye, or the kind to send them off with a bang…it does both. I find the slow bit (which takes most of the track time) to be a great soundtrack to passing landscapes from the passenger seat view of a moving car, as Gray sings, “Don’t it just look so pretty, this disappearing world.” Then, out of nowhere, all instruments pick up full throttle and deliver a one-minute exuberant backbone to the song, then fall again into a peaceful end to the memorable album.
The tracks not mentioned have a feel all their own, giving the album a varied enough sound so as no one could peg it as following a formula or particular direction. It’s an album that was more than I was even hoping for from the artist. I was able to see David Gray perform in Upper Darby, PA the year of the album’s release. It will be a show not soon forgotten.
In an unprecedented move, I present the first single from David Gray’s NEW album (because I probably won’t do a review on it for some time).