To most casual listeners, Duncan Sheik is an adult alternative one-hit wonder from the late '90s, best known for the 1997 hit "Barely Breathing." For those listeners, a double-disc set like 2006's Brighter/Later: A Duncan Sheik Anthology
will certainly seem like overkill, since he only has three other charting singles besides "Barely Breathing." Yet Sheik has legions of followers who listen to his work intently and know that there are subtle differences separating his five albums, and Brighter/Later
is designed for that audience. The title is not only a deliberate allusion to Nick Drake
-- whose hushed chamber pop-folk is clearly a big influence on Sheik -- but it also helps illustrate the concept behind the two discs here. The first disc rounds up Sheik's brighter, lighter material (including the hit, which is perversely saved to the end of the disc) and the second captures his moody, introspective work, music that's designed to be listened to alone late at night. Again, to the casual observer there may not be much that separates the two camps -- on the surface, this all can seem like pretty, precious folk-pop -- but for those who are willing to give this material a careful listen, the divisions do make sense, and help make this an effective collection. Although some may find it to be too exhaustive to be an introduction to Sheik -- after all, it's two discs and 29 songs, which is a lot to get through -- it is nevertheless best thought of as an introduction to Sheik the songwriter. There are some rarities here -- a cover of Joni Mitchell
's "Court and Spark" and a different mix of "For You" by Jamie Myerson
-- but this isn't for collectors, it's for those who haven't quite gotten a handle on Duncan Sheik's meticulously crafted albums. For those who have been wanting to dig deeper yet don't want to delve into the full albums, this is the perfect choice.