(Emote Records, CD, digital download)
Seems like ages since we’ve heard from Gregory Douglass . The local pop prince’s last record, the brooding and sometimes confrontational Battler , was released more than two years ago, which is something of a dry spell for this prolific songwriter. Though he’s been busy playing weekly online concerts and revisiting the 1980s as a member of local cover band Side Pony , he’s such a phenomenal studio artist that it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow when he hasn’t released a new record in a while. Douglass’ fans will be delighted to learn that his eighth studio album is finally here. And Lucid was more than worth the wait.
Eerie, music-box-like chimes introduce the disc’s opening cut, “The Night.” Douglass matches this somber aesthetic by luring the listener in with a slow-burning melody that feels both soothing and dangerous. He is a fantastically talented singer, but here displays more than just otherworldly pipes. Elite performers are often tempted to rely on ornamental glitz — it’s a forgivable transgression that Douglass has occasionally been guilty of in the past. But throughout Lucid, his performance is refined; he communicates more with nuance and guile than with show-stopping vocal acrobatics. The results are often exquisite.
The title track begins as a piano-driven romp, then quickly changes course and veers into atmospheric electro-pop. Crystalline production has long been a hallmark of Douglass’ recorded work. Lucid is no exception, particularly on this song. A phalanx of ethereal noises dart around the speakers, highlighting Douglass’ intense vocal melody.
Even more than on previous records, he covers a variety of stylistic terrain on this one. From easy, mid-tempo rock on album standout “White Out” to new-wave electro-pop on “Naysayer” and sinister ruminations on “Raven,” the singer displays impressive versatility and artful curiosity.
Still, regardless of various sonic disguises, Lucid is still very much a Gregory Douglass record. Meaning that fans will find typically well-crafted pop suites, thought-provoking lyrical turns and adventuresome arrangements. That last characteristic is particularly true on the songs featuring cellist Monique Citro , whose work on “One True Thing” is alone almost worth the price of admission.
Gregory Douglass celebrates the release of Lucid with a show this Saturday, June 11, at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge. Justin Levinson opens.