David Mead: Warm And Bittersweet

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Friday's Pick

  • Song: "Last Train Home"
  • Artist: David Mead
  • CD: Almost and Always
  • Genre: Pop

David Mead's bittersweet pop songs practically bleed warmth, as he expertly captures the way places — from the Queensboro Bridge to the entire state of Indiana — can stand in for a complex set of emotions and circumstances. At the same time, his high, pure, lovely voice captures breeziness and winsomeness in every breath.

David Mead i

In "Last Train Home," David Mead's lovely, high, pure voice captures breeziness and ache in every breath. Heidi Ross hide caption

itoggle caption Heidi Ross
David Mead

In "Last Train Home," David Mead's lovely, high, pure voice captures breeziness and ache in every breath.

Heidi Ross

But Mead has never sold many records, and after runs on two big labels (followed by brief stops on two minuscule ones), he's found himself starting over: Late last year, he released his new album (Almost and Always) through a service called NoiseTrade, on which listeners can either pay what they want or receive a free download in exchange for the email addresses of five friends. It's a novel way to build a following — using recorded music as an incentive for listeners to join an online community that might one day sustain his career — but it wouldn't be worth much if Mead's new music didn't sound as fresh and inviting as ever. (Fortunately for those who prefer to obtain music through more conventional means, Almost and Always is being reissued on Aug. 25 through an independent label.)

In "Last Train Home," Mead paints a simple but ambivalent portrait of a late-night train ride in which fleeting companionship is unmistakably intertwined with loneliness. The bright, piano-infused arrangement nicely balances out his melancholy words ("You are fast asleep, and I am so alone / We're together on the last train home"), as Mead basks in fresh memories while remaining aware that they've already receded into the past. As "Last Train Home" moves deliberately toward an unwelcome destination — "three more stops to go," "two more stops to go" and so on — it's hard not to feel the ache while humming along.

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This story originally ran on Jan. 9, 2009.

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