Sound — 10
Steven Wilson has come a long way in terms of writing music. Two decades ago, he was just starting to form Porcupine Tree - which went from a joke to a one-man-band to a well-respected group today. Now Wilson releases his second solo album "Grace For Drowning" which is an album that does not hold back any of Wilson's ambitions. "Grace For Drowning" encompasses almost all of SW's work into two discs. The sound is incredible. One can easily distinguish the instruments and vocals. The sound quality is also great - especially coming from a CD. Everything sounds crisp and clear, making this a worthwhile buy which is expected from Wilson's work. The jazzy guitar riffs, haunting vocals, and sharp percussion blend together nicely. Some people wonder how Grace for Drowning compares to SW's other projects, including Porcupine Tree's recent album "The Incident" and SW's previous solo album Insurgentes. To put it simply, "Grace For Drowning" incorporates old Porcupine Tree (pre-"Stupid Dream") sounds, Blackfield's airiness, and Bass Communion's quirks. King Crimson has also influenced SW in this album. If you are into retro psychedelia/jazz prog/experimental music - and new tastes - then "Grace For Drowning" is for you.
Lyrics — 8
Wilson's lyrics are simplistic when they are being sung. Of course, if you were to comprehend their meaning, then the situation would change. The meaning of the lyrics is something that needs to be analyzed well or at least explained by SW himself while on tour. The complexity of the music mixed with the simplistic expression of SW's lyrics blend nicely. Good luck attempting to figure out what he's really saying though. Wilson's vocals have greatly improved from Blackfield's "Welcome To My DNA". At least there is emotion here, especially when the music has feel. However, I've heard SW sing better in his other works. If only he had sang more throughout this album.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, the album was worth the money. The packaging was neat, the product itself is well made, and the digibook format makes it enjoyable to thumb through while listening to the album. Here's a breakdown of each song: 01. "Grace For Drowning": A song that for some reason pays homage to Blackfield's "Glass House". A nice intro that begins with a mellow tone while giving the audience a sense of what "Grace For Drowning" will be like further into the album. 02. "Sectarian": An instrumental piece that is filled with a multitude of subtle musical complexities: instrument selections and timing/rhythm. Sounds like a joining of PT's albums "The Incident" and "On The Sunday Of Life". Quite enjoyable but felt like it was reaching a climax at times but never achieved it. 03. "Deform To Form A Star": One of the most beautiful pieces of the first disc. The piano's sweet sound blended with Wilson's melodic/fitting vocals makes this track great. The guitars provide an ambient mood, complimenting the background voices as well. If only the song's ending piece did not stop so abruptly. 04. "No Part Of Me": Interesting mix of "Abandoner"-ness(from "Insurgentes") along with a unique ethnic feel similar to that of "Blood" from Blackfield. The second part of the song justifies the meaning of "No Part Of Me". The entire track feels like it is two moods in one. Airy, symbolic, wonderful. 05. "Postcard": Sounds like SW is really writing a postcard to someone estranged in this track. Voices and strings bring out this song's beauty. Nice way to ease a listener after "No Part Of Me". 06. "Raider Prelude": Haunting and unforgiving. The atmosphere of the album changes here. "Grace For Drowning"'s second part should start here despite the fact that this track is still on disc one. Not really a track - more of transition, but okay. 07. "Remainder The Black Dog": What does this mean? No clue, but the track title's complexity compliments the track itself: weird and complex. The album's jazzy feel is prevalent here, mixed with some "No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun" feel too. Interesting concoction of instruments here as well. Love how the flute pays homage to PT's early days - "The Sky Moves Sideways" maybe. 08. "Belle De Jour": In a way this song acts as intro to disc two. The guitars are both the main instrument here as well as the striking figure in this track. Sounds like a haunt-inspired welcoming to the second disc. Very simplistic track yet elegant. 09. "Index": One can imagine a collector gathering items to add to his/her collection in this song. A chilling track that effectively uses strings and effects to set the mood. Sounds like a contingency plan throughout. A nice addition to the album. 10. "Track One": Similar to PT's "Anesthetize" in which the track is split into three sections. An interesting beginning with SW's a capella, stern and aggressive middle, followed by a dreamy/beautiful end. The finale is one of Wilson's best pieces. 11. "Raider II": This is song is like an entire album itself: it is a stand-alone song, is a conglomerate of sound samples, and is a lengthy track as well. "Raider II" is a very tiring track to absorb and comprehend. Fans of PT's "Metanoia" or "Insignificance" would at least appreciate this track's second half. Not a bad song but difficult to listen in one sitting. 7/10 12. "Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye": Sounds familiar to PT's "Stars Die" for some reason. This song represents art rock and dreaminess. A good ending to an entire album - feels like the end credits of a good movie. Thanks for the outro Mr. Wilson. "Grace For Drowning" is an excellent album that does not hold back Steven Wilson's creative mind-flow of musical ideas. This album is ideal to those who have followed Wilson over the years through his other projects - especially Porcupine Tree in the 90s and Bass Communion. "Grace For Drowning" can also be good buy for anyone interested in hearing something new. Would buy this again and/or recommend to a friend. Awesome job Mr. Wilson and thanks for making this album affordable to starving college students.