Duncan Sheik emerged in the mid-'90s as the hyper-sensitive balladeer responsible for the inescapable, saccharine-drenched lite-rock staple "Barely Breathing," which contained the shmaltzy refrain "I only taste the saline when I kiss away your tears." Sheik was Howie Day before Howie Day. After that, by all conventional wisdom, Sheik should have been relegated to the Trivial Pursuit random-factoid slush pile alongside his contemporaries from that era. But first Sheik briefly redeemed his credibility with a guest stint on VH1's The List, for which he chose Radiohead's The Bends and Jeff Buckley's Grace as two of the best albums of all time, revealing a stunning and unexpected sensibility on his part. And in 2001 he issued Phantom Moon, his finest, most expressive work to date -- even if it was the words of his collaborator, playwright-cum- lyricist Steven Sater, on the Nick Drake-owing Moon that helped elevate Sheik's material and stature. Since then, though, he's recorded two discs -- 2002's Daylight and White Limousine, out this week on the Zoe imprint -- that rarely ascend above serviceable. Looks like Sheik may finally be out of breath.
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