Duncan Sheik

Whisper House

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A dalliance with Broadway reinvigorated Duncan Sheik, winning him a Tony and opening up the new artistic avenues he pursues on Whisper House, his first album since the award-winning production of Spring Awakening and his 2006 LP, White Limousine. Whisper House falls somewhere between those two extremes, being a dramatic piece that plays a lot like a classic '70s singer/songwriter album, especially when the opener, "It's Better to Be Dead," unfolds quietly yet dramatically in the tradition of early Elton John. Whisper House rarely gets this grand, either in its production or its intent. It's an intimate affair, with the many duets with singer/songwriter Holly Brook playing like overheard conversations, but as carefully considered as the narrative is, what makes Whisper House work is that it functions as a pop album. It can be broken up into small, digestible pieces -- the ten tunes are either delicate folk numbers or surprisingly sprightly pop tunes -- and it can be appreciated as a concise collection of catchy straightforward songs that build upon each other. Indeed, among Sheik's albums this ranks among the best, showcasing his subtle skills and sense of quiet adventure in ways his sometimes fussy earlier records never did.

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