I’ve followed David Gray throughout his career, from 1993′s A Century Ends, to Draw the Line in 2009. Fortunately for Gray’s fans, his new album, Foundling was released on August 16th, 2010, not even a full year after its preceding album.
Gray is a master at his game. He’s a folk/rock singer-songwriter who repeatedly shows off his affection for language, melody, and simplicity in his music. Though many of his albums have received critical acclaim, Gray seems to garner fairly modest radio play.
Foundling opens up with “Only the Wine.” A beautiful sounding song, simplistic and bare bones, this track’s lyrics are just vague enough to evoke a number of different images: a forest with leaves glistening with dew, a drunken evening of love-making, an alcoholic asking for help. In fact, this isn’t the only song on this album with lyrics open to a wide variety of interpretation. “Only the Wine” clocks in at two minutes and fifty-two seconds and seems the perfect length for this album’s opener.
The second track, “Foundling,” intros with a thrumming organ and some hand-slapped drum-skins. A sharp sounding guitar chimes in, and then Gray’s voice finds it’s place. Although this is another song with wildly unclear lyrics, he manages to belt it out like it means something, like it means everything at this very moment. This is one of Gray’s talents; writing nearly incomprehensible lyrics, and yet still making us feel like we’re getting it.
Following is a deep and heartfelt song, “Forgetting.” The whole song plays through with simple piano chords and vocals and begins a crescendo at the end, and easily emulates the feeling of the song’s apparent content; a failed or abusive marriage or relationship. You won’t walk away with a happy feeling from this tune.
“Gossamer Thread” picks it up just a bit, giving little relief from the woe of its preceding track. Next, “The Old Chair” is a metaphor for yet another broken relationship, like a chair being used, torn, split at the seams, unwanted, and discarded. We hear Gray singing with a strange electronic distortion on his vocals in “What in God’s Name,” which leads into “We Could Fall in Love Again Tonight,” and it becomes more clear that this album is taking us through a story arch of love gone wrong and the possibility of rekindling the fire.
The album wraps up with “A New Day at Midnight,” a song title that shares the same name as his 2002 album, and then closes with “Davey Jones’ Locker.”
Foundling is a bittersweet journey of sweet, simple, subtle music and ambiguous but unmistakably sad lyrics. But then, if you’re a David Gray fan, you probably saw that coming. Foundling, as a closing chapter to 2009′s Draw the Line, should please long time Gray fans, but likely won’t do much to introduce him to a new audience.
Personal Rating: 68/90 (75%)
1: Lyrics: 7/10
2: Significance: 8/10
3: Music: 8/10
4: Freshness: 5/10
5: Production Quality: 8/10
6: Composition: 8/10
7: Dynamic Range: 9/10
8: Humanity: 8/10
9: Cohesiveness: 7/10