Pete Doherty has been reduced to tabloid fodder over the past few years, as the former Libertines and Babyshambles frontman’s exploits have overshadowed his musical talent. But Doherty has always been a skilled musician with something to say, even if he was occasionally too doped up to say it. The last Babyshambles album, 2007’s Shotter’s Nation, wasn’t Doherty’s best work, but it showcased a thoughtful songwriter with an ear for melody.
Grace/Wastelands is Doherty’s first solo record, and it feels appropriate, mainly because his former bands have always been mostly about him, anyway. The album is stripped down, featuring Doherty’s moody vocals, acoustic guitar, and light drumming, shining the spotlight on melody and lyrics. “A Little Death Around the Eyes” is dark, mopey, and undeniably lovely, and “Broken Love Song” is layered and emotionally poignant. The whole album feels strikingly cathartic, as if its creation was therapy.