A New Day at Midnight, David Gray's fifth album (not counting Lost Songs) and the follow-up to 2000's worldwide smash White Ladder, seems to be the sound of a troubadour in transition—growing p

A New Day at Midnight, David Gray's fifth album (not counting Lost Songs) and the follow-up to 2000's worldwide smash White Ladder, seems to be the sound of a troubadour in transition—growing pains. Missing the fire of 1996's Sell, Sell, Sell, the darkness of 1994's Flesh, and rarely flashing the spellbinding beauty of White Ladder, the album feels like his weakest. For the better part of a decade, Gray toiled to little avail in the States, selling few copies of three albums each released on a different label; after a final debacle with EMI, he headed home and created White Ladder in his bedroom, desperate and determined. That stubborn passion is rarely heard on Midnight; and that's not to say it's lost for good, it just proved elusive to him here. Musically, many of these songs feel like an extension of such downcast White Ladder cuts as "Nightblindness" and "Silver Lining." "Freedom," a ballad in that vein, is probably the best cut on the swaying Midnight, followed closely by the more uptempo "Be Mine." While there are a few other pretty moments tucked inside "Kangaroo" and "Last Boat to America," Midnight doesn't prove as jarring and warm to the soul as Ladder. And it's not necessarily a bad thing that these songs aren't as immediate and accessible as those on Ladder; what makes this a disappointment is that these tracks are just simply not as exciting.—WO

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