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NPR premieres 2 new songs from Duncan’s forthcoming album Legerdemain. Listen and download the tracks for free.

Read the interview and listen to the tracks on NPR.org

duncan-sheik-legerdemain_custom-a5a5b5218575874a5d7a17a9123669af0813c1e0-s40-c85In April 2015, Duncan Sheik, a songwriter who has had hits on both pop radio and the Broadway stage, will release Legerdemain, his first album of original material since 2009’sWhisper House. Sheik crafted the album in his Garrison, N.Y. studio, and he’s sharing two songs from that album via NPR Music; you can listen and download both of them below.

When Sheik came onto the pop scene in the mid-1990s, his music quietly stood apart from the status quo. In the decade of grunge, diva anthems and the Macarena, Sheik’s 1996 breakthrough single, “Barely Breathing,” was contemplative and literate. It was a challenge reminding the mainstream that pop could be more artful than obvious. Sheik didn’t fit into the hit-making mold, however, and his subsequent albums took him farther from the mainstream. He became a favorite among connoisseurs of pop erudition.

A decade after his moment in the Hot 100, Sheik turned the tables in another art world. He’d been experimenting in theater for a while, writing the music for the New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of Twelfth Night; but in 2006 he completed the work that would really make a difference. Spring Awakening, the musical he created with the lyricist and playwright Steven Sater based on a turn-of-the-century play by the German Expressionist Frank Wedekind, startled Broadway into a new era. Its fourth wall-toppling staging, intense sexual themes and music inspired by current rock artists (Sheik has cited Bjork and Radiohead) hit the theater world the way that Nirvana hit pop music in 1991, inspiring a major reboot.

Sheik has continued his musical theater adventures, collaborating with Sater on a new work based on Alice in WonderlandAlice By Heart; composing the score for a new production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and, currently, working on two high-profile stage adaptations, for Ameican Psycho (that one has been in the news lately) and Because of Winn-Dixie. He’s also kept making pop albums. These works meld the intimate confessionalism of singer-songwriters like Nick Drake with the electronic elements Sheik discovered in his youth through New Wave innovators like Japan and Talk Talk (whom he honored with the excellent 2011 collection Covers ’80s). Sheik’s light storytelling touch makes every love song seem like an open conversation. Pushing against the confines of alternative pop stardom in seven studio albums whose touchstones range from prog-rock to ambient music to art song, Sheik has shaped a body of work that’s elegant and subtly challenging.

The songs from the new album, Legerdemain, feel full-circle; intimate and contemplative, they recall his very earliest work and especially Humming, his ripe-to-be-rediscovered second album. Telling complicated little stories via spare lyrics and subtle studio wizardry, these songs beautifully balance Sheik’s pop know-how and his theatrical impulses.

Sheik recently took some time to discuss, via email, his songwriting process, the acoustic-electronic balance, and how to tell a story when the character is yourself.

 

Read the interview and listen to the tracks on NPR.org

Oct 16 2014 Category: News

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