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The Daily Tar Heel

Gray Succeeds Despite Thoughtful Diversion

David Gray
A New Day at Midnight

The more that David Gray sits around thinking, the better his music gets.

White Ladder, Gray's 1999 release, pulled him from the featureless soup of British rock into rock stardom. It was forceful, emotionally charged and moving -- definitive digital rock.

A New Day at Midnight proves that it wasn't just a fluke.

Smooth, seamless and soulful, Midnight represents not only Gray's power as a musician but also his ability to grow as an artist. Denser than his past work, with heavier textures and layered melodies, Gray moves beyond the guitar and lonely microphone feel of hits such as "Babylon" and the tearful "Please Forgive Me."

As a result, Gray transcends categorization with other singer/songwriters toying with jam band tendencies (see Howie Day, Jack Johnson).

Though the string arrangements are still subtle and instrumentation is still simple and soothing, the overall weight of the album is greater -- both in construction and content.

And the content is really what this album is all about. Gray clearly didn't concern himself with selling records as he risks losing fans with the looser and carefree structure coupled with his introspective lyrics.

But, after all, Midnight wasn't made for the fans. Gray's sixth LP is a personal proclamation of pain and joy, sadness and hope -- making Midnight an emotional journey and a darkened looking glass into Gray's head.

That is the tricky thing about the album. Just when you think Gray is going to let you in, his true message is shadowed by an extended guitar tapestry or full-bodied moan.

Songs like "Last Boat to America" and the chilly "December" throw snapshots at the listener of what is going on in Gray's head but lock them out of true discovery.

While listening, it almost feels like sneaking a peek at Gray's diary but getting caught right before reaching the good part. But Gray doesn't get mad, he just changes the subject.

The heavy tones and brooding instrumentals on the album are juxtaposed with rocking sweets like "Be Mine" and "Kangaroo." Gray even manages to weave in a peace offering or two to his fans, such as the digital and raspy "Dead in the Water."

The end result is an album that Gray should have made two years further down the road. White Ladder established his talent and garnered him recognition, but he hasn't yet gained that sustained support that gives him the freedom to fool around.

Midnight is a solid album. Its construction is full and deep, its mood is powerful and its songs intelligent. But are Gray's fans going to like it?

Give them some time.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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