Life in Slow Motion
David Gray's new album is his seventh, and it also marks the first time in a while that Gray took his band into a regular recording studio to cut an album. Says Gray, "I really wanted to get away from that lo-fi bedroom, programming, Midi side of things. I really wanted to experiment, so a lot of the songs came out of playing as a band or messing around with sounds."
The album begins with "Alibi" which is a perfect example of what Gray means by getting out of the bedroom. Although the track could easily have been arranged as an understated, piano-based song, it has a full orchestra performing along, giving it a lushness not previously heard on Gray's albums. "Alibi" and the first single "The One I Love" both feature orchestras, and two others have a string or horn section.
Largely gone are the electronic beats from the backing tracks (think "Babylon" or "Caroline"). Instead, Gray tries his hand at songs like the terrific "Hospital Food" which hints at sounding like a classic Phil Spector arrangement yet with a flourish of New Wave-era keyboard runs.
Life in Slow Motion was produced by Marius De Vries, who did some keyboard programming for Gray on the White Ladder album. De Vries also oversaw Rufus Wainwright's Want One and Two albums, and has worked for Bjork, Madonna, and Bebel Gilberto. This is the first time in a several albums that Gray has had an outside producer, preferring recently to handle those duties himself with his band.
Gray's lyrics are concerned with people not able or willing to come to grips with their surroundings. Some of the songs, like "Lately," wax poetic about broken urban landscapes. "Taste the broken hearts in the vacant lots," Gray sings, in that song. "See the fruit that rots on the trees."
The characters in Gray's songs seem to be doing much running. In "Alibi," the song concludes with a chorus of "tonight I'm running wild, I'm running." In the song "Nos Da Cariad," the title of which means "goodnight darling" in Welsh, "Then we'll be running, afraid of nothing." These lyrics contrast with others about people in no hurry, and getting nowhere. In a song called "From Here
You Can Almost See the Sea," he sings of a man saying "I'm smoking, killing the time/How long's a piece of twine."
Regardless of his song's subject matter, Gray's incredible vocals nearly always hit their target powerfully. Despite the glacial landscape depicted on the album's cover, Life in Slow Motion is a smoldering set of music.