You expect Duncan Sheik's music to drip with longing, to ooze the melancholy heard on his self-titled debut with his first (and biggest) hit, "Barely Breathing," and expounded on 2001's more experimental Phantom Moon. But Daylight is just a drag, an album mired down by lifeless chord changes and soundscapes, so that even hopeful songs like "Start Again" and "On Her Mind," and, make Sheik sound resigned to failure.
The disc starts out strongly with the regretful but rocking "Genius (Never Came Through)," one of the few songs that feels completely realized. Most of what follows, though, feels limp and formless, with the aimlessness of a lonely drunk wandering the streets at sunrise. It's not that you don't sympathize with him or can't find the beauty in the context; you just wish Sheik had some direction. Producer Patrick Leonard is clearly enamored of ethereal synthesizers (used to much better effect on Madonna's Ray of Light)—to the point that the atmosphere takes over the song. Both "Half-Life" and "Start Again" are lost in a wash of keyboards.
The album's relentlessly bleak musical mood is overwhelming, so much so that even the most upbeat tune here ("On a High") can, well, barely breathe. That's too bad, because Sheik's still a fine lyricist with a keen eye for detail ("and we’re riding the ponies in Mexico / the moonlight leaps through the palm tree groves" from "Such Reverie," for instance). But his haunting, almost brooding, voice calls for livelier music as its counterpoint; with the right balance he can be one of pop's most affecting male vocalists. He only finds it on "Genius," the heavily orchestrated "Shine Inside" and the lovely "For You," which almost completely strips away the synths. Sheik begins the song by singing "For you, I want to sing a happier song." Next time out, he'd be wise to give that a shot.