Anyone who wants to mock David Gray has an easy time of it. Gray makes no pretense of edginess, either in his persona or his music. He sings in a voice that's as vulnerable and open as his lyrics. He's even called his latest album Life In Slow Motion. So go ahead and mock. But the same elements that make Gray an easy target are also what makes him stand out. Gray makes unapologetically stately, grown-up music with no use for shtick. He digs into the emotions of a fleeting moment and blows them up to song size. When that approach goes poorly, the results can be dull, but when it goes well, they're quite moving. Sincerity can go a long way, particularly when so many of the current crop of sensitive male singer-songwriters sound perpetually full of shit.
Life In Slow Motion, Gray's seventh album, breaks with the folk 'n' techno formula that served him well on 1999's White Ladder and adequately on his 2002 follow-up A New Day At Midnight. Instead, Life In Slow Motion offers a fully produced sound, complete with a name-brand producer (Marius De Vries of Madonna fame) and a string section. But as before, it's really about the bittersweet swoop of Gray's voice and the way lines like "Where'd it all go wrong?" get elevated to operatic drama by the music behind them.
A tendency to devolve into Coldplay-esque atmospherics makes it a less than wholly successful effort, but like Midnight, Slow Motion includes more than a few tracks worth plucking. Of particular note: The lovely "The One I Love" and "Slow Motion," which hearkens back to the outsized romance of White Ladder's "This Year's Love." As for the rest, it's mostly background music, but it's heartfelt background music, and the warmth makes all the difference.