Gray is the missing link between hairy folkies and shiny-headed Moby, accenting his ballads with a dollop of electronica for a fresh, adult-contemporary sound. He isn't the only one doing it—see fellow England native Beth Orton—but on his largely homemade fourth album, 2000's White Ladder, he blended styles as skillfully as Starbucks crossbred beatniks and business suits. The chain, spotting a kindred spirit, played White Ladder in Java parlors coast to coast, helping it sell nearly 2 million copies.
Electro-granola turns out to be a tasty meal again on this follow-up. Gray's somber music at times threatens to drift away like a lazy cloud, but he begins with perhaps his hardest-rocking track yet, the apocalyptic, muscular "Dead in the Water." The rest of the disc lacks that fierceness, but pretty melodies and understated keyboards keep Gray's craggy, urgent vocals up front where they belong. If he sang the alphabet, you'd stick around to see how it ends.