IHT/East West - 2002 - 50 minutes

If you told David Gray four years ago that by the time he released his next album people would be queuing on Grafton Street in the early hours to buy it, chances were he'd thank you for the optimism and hope you bought two copies of 'White Ladder' in the meantime. That record took on a life (or lives – biggest selling album in Irish history) of its own with its audience and sense of anticipation about the follow-up mounting with every passing year.

Wait over, those expecting what went before might initially find themselves retreating to the comfort of the past. This isn't an instant record, it lives up to the maxim of being darkest before the dawn, dwelling on loss and those on the receiving end. But while there's solace to be gleaned, it only arrives after you've found your way out of the album's biggest pitfall: the pacing.

For an album whose title seems to dwell on light and shade, this album is powered by downbeat arrangements and requires patience. Fans who have it however, will find that the glow from tracks like 'Kangaroo', 'Last Boat to America' and 'The Other Side' eventually reveals itself.

With the exception of the upbeat 'Caroline', (the album's weakest track) 'A New Day…' is filler free but put this collection up against Beck's 'Sea Change' or Josh Rouse's 'Under Cold Gray Stars' and it's third place all the way. To his credit though, Gray has stuck to what he does best: intimacy and little stories about life's big problems.

The release of this record isn't shrouded in the against-the-odds romance of the last one so perhaps it is too much to expect to mean quite the same. Four years ago there was an album that was a secret which became a success, this time around there's one that is slick and smart but never standout.

Many in a similar position have made themselves and an audience settle for a lot less.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Dead in the Water - Caroline - Long Distance Call - Freedom -Kangaroo - Last Boat to America - Real Love - Knowwhere - December - Be Mine - Easy Way to Cry - The Other Side