As an actor, David Duchovny isn’t particularly known or cast for his dynamic range. From Fox Mulder on down, he rarely rises much above a gentle monotone. Having embarked on a third career as a musician – following his work as an actor and writer of fiction – it’s little surprise that, in song, he’s not much different from the guy we’ve seen on screens both big and small. This can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on how you feel about Duchovny in general. He’s certainly not the worst actor/musician crossover, but he’s also far from the best. As with his cultivated persona, he falls somewhere in the middle – pleasant, but also somewhat innocuous.

For his second album, Every Third Thought, he doesn’t do much in the way of revamping the sound he unveiled on Hell or Highwater so much as further refine his particular brand of ‘90s-inspired alt-pop. Opening track “Half Life” offers up his strongest hook to date, the chorus a surprisingly pleasant earworm that is enough to make Every Third Thought worth checking out. Sounding a bit more at ease with his singing voice (it sounds exactly as you would imagine, that at-times stoic drawl and nasal baritone immediately familiar to any fan of The X-Files, Twin Peaks or Californication), Duchovny sits back within the song, allowing an ample instrumental intro before coming in. And though the lyrics read somewhat prosaic, there’s still an inherent intelligence behind the delivery – Fox Mulder behind the mic – singing, “Unconditional love decays/ Only fossilized hearts can break/ Every piece is indivisible.”

Sure, it’s not the most profound of lyrical ideas, but it immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album in terms of interpersonal reflection. Seven years after his split from former wife Téa Leoni and a mere four after the finalization of their divorce, you can’t help but hear a little bit of the remorse in his voice, the sense of loss of what once was palpable. “Every thought on the future and the past/ All these thoughts on things that don’t last/ Every second thought on what’s false and true/ Every third thought on you,” he sings on the title track.

On “Maybe I Can’t” he sounds very much like Sea Change-era Beck in voice, timbre and lyrical content (see also: Wilco circa Summerteeth). Bringing the volume down and relying on a plaintive acoustic guitar, his voice becomes biggest thing in the mix. Stripped down, it shows what Every Third Thought could’ve been were it relieved of its ‘90s trappings and given over to more of a Topanga Canyon sound. As is, it’s something of an outlier, one of the few truly down moments on an album full of songs sticking to the poppier end of the alt.rock spectrum – not quite power pop, not exactly mainstream or adult contemporary, though it wouldn’t sound out of place in either.

Given his pop culture status, it’s hard to approach the album without a certain amount of baggage – which is truly unfair to Duchovny as a musician. The fact of the matter is, he’s offered up yet another fine slab of somewhat timeless alt. folk rock that sounds like a million things before it and yet utterly the work of its creator. Will Every Third Thought wind up on many year-end best-of lists? Probably not. Will it find its way on to those less-than-flattering “celebrity musician” worst-of lists? Definitely not. Even with the cringe-worthy title like “Mo’,” (“If less is more/ What are you unhappy for?”) Duchovny’s songwriting still remains enjoyably inoffensive and worth a spin or two – just not enough for him to pack in either of his other two day jobs.

  • David Duchovny: Hell or Highwater

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