Review Summary: Phantom Moon is a mesmerizing piece of music history that is greatly unappreciated
Duncan Sheik's previous two albums 'Self Titled and Humming' fading from memory by 2001, Duncan Sheik released his third album Phantom Moon. I believe to be his best album because the music on this album is of such a high quality all the way through. The previous albums had slightly disappointing songs or songs that felt slightly out of place. But Phantom Moon avoids this completely, the music is exquisitely written and the lyrics are deeper and more meaningful, also more poetic. This brings me onto Steven Satar who is a poet who wrote the lyrics with Duncan Sheik. I think this is a master combination because songs like 'The Winds That Blow' and 'Mr. Chess' have the perfect partnership between the music and lyrics. The lyrics are a lot more ambitious, reflective and less generic and this fits with the acoustic guitar, piano and orchestra based songs. The lyrics also suit Duncan Sheik's voice which is very clear and ranges well between the higher and lower notes, and thus stands on it's own for me in creativity and purity of music.
The song for me that gets a special mention is Mr. Chess, because it was the song of the album that made me take notice in the first place with the soothing guitar picking and Sheik singing about "Solitary King's" and "pawns and people with blue sequins through their hair". The lyrics tell such a beautiful story and it is delivered perfectly on this album along with every other song, no song on the album feels forced or out of place.
There is less electric guitar and none of the Oasis influence heard on his first album, and instead goes for a more Nick Drake sound, who incidentally he mentioned in the song 'That Says It All' on the previous album. The songs 'Longing Town, Mr. Chess and The Winds That Blow' are such beautiful songs that draw you into listening again and again. The music and lyrics are more ambitious as I mentioned, but they are still unmistakably the work of Duncan Sheik, which is the key to this album, it still has the spark that Duncan brings to his songs but with added poetic sensibility from Satar. The one thing that has been added to this album are the haunting melodies which make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. With Satar writing the lyrics it gave Duncan more time to spend perfecting the music, and I really do mean perfecting the music, it's one of the few albums where it feels like there is nothing missing and it doesn't get boring. A 4 minute song of near perfection is hard to make, a 54 minute album of near perfection is almost impossible, but Duncan Sheik pulled it off here with Phantom Moon, which still remains Sheik's magnum opus.
The Winds That Blow