Laugh a Minute Records (label)
19 February 2021 (released)
29 April 2021
David Gray offers the poetry of Skellig.
Readers will likely remember Gray from his top 10 hit songs The One I Love and Babylon. The Englishman has also had success on the album chart with three number ones, the last of which came in 2005.
The singer may not have been at the forefront of the public consciousness, but he has kept himself busy. This latest LP is his 12th studio album.
Although Skellig was initially released digitally on the 19th of February, it is now gearing up for its physical debut on the 14th of May.
The record shares its discomfort with aspects of the world today. Pain and suffering are on the agenda. The project also looks for redemption or relief, within this world and the next. There's room for the carefree too.
At one point during the third track, ‘Accumulates’ Gray opines:
”And it whispers from the wings, knowingly insinuates, shines a certain light on things, emphasising your least likeable traits….”
The song serves as a warning of how doubt and fear gradually builds and builds until eventually it drives us down a dark path.
In many ways the song is a reflection of much of the album itself. Tunes are long, enigmatic poems, backed by sumptuous musicianship. Some like ‘Can't Hurt More Than This’ deals with the pain of the world, while ‘Deep Water Swim’, appears to rebuke those manipulating the truth with Sweet words of false promises and Solutions.
There's also room for the exploration of death. ‘Heart and Soul’ and ‘Dares My Heart Be Free’ finds the protagonist intrigued if not eager to visit the next realm.
The latter appears to be fixated on the road to death, better known as life. It chronicles the pains and loves of life as the protagonist gets older and gets ever closer to the end.
The Brit sings:
“That ghost in the wires that calls out my name, the mockingbird choir that calls it again, that old mystifier that dares my heart be free…”
The storyteller holds an intrigue to what comes next and there seems to be an eagerness to escape to the next chapter.
If this comes across as a little bit morbid for the listener then the musician is quick to remind them of nature's optimism even in death.
‘Heart and Soul’ meanwhile, has the audience at “The start of the river, the end of me….”
The artist sings longingly for a place “Where truth ain't resented, where love ain't despised, and misrepresented….”
It is almost as if the protagonist has no hope for his earthly home and is determined for better in the next.
Although things are not strictly acoustic, songs are stripped back. Produced by Ben De Vries, guitars and piano often lead the set with other instruments complementing, like a
violin wafting past the ear.
In just one example, the electric guitar on ‘Heart and Soul’ oozes tranquillity. The listener will have no trouble drifting away, aided by Gray’s calm charisma.
Of the 13 tracks on offer the majority are well over 3 minutes. The project is designed to take its time, impart its story, its message and have the audience take it in.
Sometimes this is a tad indulgent as is in the case of ‘Spiral Arms’.
Lyrically the song is a short one but it's almost 7 minutes long. Much of this is spent on the ambiguous hook and could easily have been the same song in half that time. Most of the time though, Gray strikes the right balance .
Some lyrics are otherworldly, others are surreal, as some just play it straight.
This is enough to help the audience get the bit between their teeth and get into the LP without giving them all the answers.