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Phantom Moon

4.2 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 27, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

An all-acoustic project for Nonesuch is a first-time collaboration between this gold-status Atlantic artist and New York playwright and lyricist Steven Sater. An invitation from Sater to set some of his lyrics for a play evolved into an extraordinarily fruitful creative partnership, which resulted in this intimate, personal collection of songs. Working with associate producer Tommy Krasker (Audra McDonald, Adam Guettel), and mixer/engineer Kevin Killen (U2, Peter Gabriel, Tori Amos), Duncan reunites with Simon Hale (Jamiroquai), who provides the string and wind arrangements.

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Still remembered primarily for the catchy, but ultimately forgettable single "Barely Breathing" off his self-titled debut record, Duncan Sheik's Phantom Moon continues down the same, increasingly melancholic road he began to chart in earnest on his 1998 sophomore effort, Humming. Here, Sheik slows everything down and wrings bittersweet romance from these songs, which feature lyrics written by New York playwright Steven Sater. Embellished with pianos, strings, and occasional, understated drum work, the music Sheik puts around Sater's poetic stories is moody but not acutely passionate. While his expression is heartfelt, it always feels like he's just passing through these sentiments. Songs like "Mouth on Fire," while lovely and sonically intriguing, never attain those touches of intense individuality that mark the best troubadours. Nevertheless, Moon is a solid effort, and it shows off Sheik's growing musical prowess and confidence. Perhaps he simply needs life to throw him a few more low balls before his work finds the sad, brilliant heart it, for now, only alludes to. --Matthew Cooke
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 27, 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000059LYY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,795 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This album is certainly a departure for Duncan Sheik, although it was not hard to see it coming based on his previous work, as well as his open admiration for Nick Drake. However, while there are elements of indisputable similarity to Drake, it feels as though Duncan Sheik has truly emerged with this album. The pop image that has been with him since 'Barely Breathing' never seemed to fit, and songs like 'Nothing Special' from Humming confirm that the artist shares that sentiment. Sheik's music, while radio-friendly, always hinted to a more artful temperament- with his unusual harmonic progressions and orchestrations. Sheik and his friends at Atlantic must have realized this would not have the same sales heat as his previous work, which would explain their decision to release 'Phantom Moon' on Nonesuch records, a smaller, more avant-garde division of Warner. Missing on this album is producer Rupert Hine, replaced by Sheik alone, whose inexperience as a producer is only noticeable in a few moments. Also missing on this album is Sheik the lyricist, replaced by playwright Steven Sater. This is perhaps the most compelling aspect of the album. It is extremely rare to find lyrics of such mysterious and poetic beauty as this. Sater's writing is a welcome change of pace from the mundane drivel that has become the industry norm, and an improvement on Sheik's own inspired but inconsistent lyrics. Like many of his fans, I will miss the more raucous, beat-driven moments, but after 2 listens I found myself completely hooked on many of the new songs, and each repeat listen illuminates another glorious layer. 'Phantom Moon' is an admirable endeavor from an artist who could just as easily continued to pump out the "hits", and is a must-have for anyone that can appreciate thoughtful and well-crafted songwriting.
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Format: Audio CD
Here we are, another late night. Everyone's gone to bed, the cats are curled up in the chair and the day is about done. ``Phantom Moon'' is playing. Again. As it has since we first bought it how many months ago.
What keeps bringing me back? The music is hummable, yet sublimely complex. The lyrics are smart, and haunt as the night fades. Melancholic? Sure. Sad? Life hurts, sometimes, and it's that pain that clenches the heart. Hopeful? Absolutely. The sun always rises.
It feels like the inside of a prayer.
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Format: Audio CD
Phantom Moon is a remarkably beautiful album, shadowed only by his first album. As is the case with many great artists' first solo albums (see Phil Collins- Face Value for reference), Duncan Sheik's self titled album reflects a great deal of self experience- and as such is better than future work (in general).
Phantom Moon is definitely better than Humming- there is a greater sense of unity in the songs- a linear flow from idea to idea. The lyrics are dramatically more complex and poetic (but they aren't Duncan Sheik's own) yet the music is more simple, in general.
Those who would say this album is too somber or representative of a slip into more depressing songs may not be reading what Duncan says about the album. It is a departure from what he normally does, it is more of a tribute to his influences and his friend's poetic and lyric talent. Listen to the music and the voice, that is Duncan's talent speaking.
The quality of sound that this album evokes is far beyond Humming due to it's control of orchestral parts. The range of sound is more limited than his previous albums- but then again, this lends itself to the theme of the music.
In short, get this album if you like the samples. Listen to it again and again because it keeps getting better. Memorize the words to Longing Town and try to sing it- you will realize that these third party lyrics and Duncan's music are perfect together, and that his talent is here to stay.
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By A Customer on August 25, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Reading some of the reviews before me, I could see exactly how some followers of Mr. Sheik's music might have been shocked at first over this completely mellow and sometimes more darker music than his previous two albums. But, as with every CD, we have to listen to all of the music and get used to the flow. I have to say that it was pretty surprising to listen to "Phantom Moon" for the first time. But with time and learning the logic behind Sater's lyrics and Duncan's choice of chords and musical format, everything came out beautiful. Very minimilast and relying less on the orchestra than his previous albums, the songs on "Phantom Moon" talk about your regular heartache, but also of mortality, seen in the song "All the Winds that Blow," religion and life. Other memorable tracks are "Mr. Chess", "Far Away", "This is How My Heart Heard","Requiescat", "Longing Town", "A Mirror in the Heart." The beauty of this CD is that with the acoustic setting, Duncan's voice is highlighted. The clear execution of the words, the smooth delivery of notes have always made Duncan so different from his contemporaries. But in this album, Duncan's voice is the primary instrument, accompanied by his guitar riffs and drum beats. In a music scene filled with technically geared instruments or memorable music videos, it is sometimes good to go back to music as a simple as this--where the lyrics tell us a story. My advice: the best way to listen to this CD is not on your CD stereo but on your own personal CD player with headphones. The songs are so intimate and personal that to put it on stereo for the rest of the world to hear seems inappropriate.
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