Following the mixed reception of his ambitious 2006 album Born in the U.K., Badly Drawn Boy's Damon Gough retreated from the studio, returning only in 2009 when the writers of The Fattest Man in Britain asked him to write songs for the TV show's soundtrack. Being obligated to make music reignited Gough's creativity, leading him to create a proposed trilogy of albums that started with It's What I'm Thinking, Pt 1: Photographing Snowflakes. This return to the studio is also something of a return to form for Gough, who sounds more intimate and philosophical on these songs than he has since The Hour of Bewilderbeast. Badly Drawn Boy has done remarkable things with little more than an acoustic guitar, a drum machine and Gough's words, and songs such as “In Safe Hands” and “The Order of Things” serve as a reminder that many of his best songs sound like conversations set to music. Musically speaking, most of It's What I'm Thinking, Pt. 1 keeps it simpler than Gough has in some time; even the tracks bedecked with strings and timpani don't sound overcooked, and he stays close to the delicate folktronic territory that made his name, venturing only as far out as “You Lied”'s chilly soft rock and “I Saw You Walk Away”'s soulful pop. Thematically, however, things are more complex. True to the album's title, Gough is thoughtful on these songs, meditating on memories and the bigness and smallness of life on songs like “Too Many Miracles” and “What Tomorrow Brings,” where he tries to balance thinking about the future and the present. Failure and fear are significant themes (particularly on the title track, where Gough disguises some of his harshest words with sleepy slide guitars) and indeed, It's What I'm Thinking, Pt. 1 sometimes sounds a little tentative. It's not until the album's final two tracks that Gough reconnects fully with his muse: On “This Electric,” he's “chasin' all miracles” with the idealistic, confessional sweetness of his best work, a feeling that continues into “This Beautiful Idea,” which counters the melancholy feel of much of the album with hope and discovery. Though It's What I'm Thinking, Pt. 1 finds Badly Drawn Boy still getting back on his feet, it has enough encouraging moments for fans to stick around until he hits his full stride.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares