Daylight

Despite his videogenic image and flair for crafting memorable melodies, Sheik is not your average pop star.

Despite his videogenic image and flair for crafting memorable melodies, Sheik is not your average pop star. He continually bucks convention, opting to experiment with left-leaning concepts (2001's glorious, if sometimes confounding Phantom Moon) when others would desperately cloy and claw for continual top-40 approval. With Daylight, the artist once again flirts with mainstream listeners, but he does so with a decidedly subtle hand. Every song sparkles with a hook or lyrical element strong enough to permanently embed the brain upon impact. But, unlike most current pop music, Sheik and co-producer Leonard trust their audience to not require hammerhanded execution. Instead, they assume listener intelligence and patience, and they let songs unfold in sprawling, often complex arrangements that are ultimately more satisfying than more obvious fare. That said, there's plenty here for top 40 to embrace, starting with the elegant first single "On Her Mind," as well as the bubbly, guitar-etched "On a High."—LF