(Three and a half out of five stars)
Three months ago, Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice announced himself back in action by releasing 9, his follow-up album to 2002’s O. Simple acoustic intros lead the listener into an album full of highs and lows one might not expect from an artist who’s only been on the music scene for a few years.
Song to song, you’ll find Rice toes the line between a bleeding heart and an artist with suppressed positive energy. Some songs are powerful in their emotional appeal and subject; while others are diluted and almost catchy. One song, “Rootless Tree,” shamelessly displays a bruised heart and the anger of a hurt lover and is incredibly overbearing and in-your-face. But the next track, “Dogs,” is a dreamy piece about unrequited and quirky love. And one track later, “Coconut Skins” is vocally upbeat and easy to sing along with. But immediately, “Me, My Yoke, and I” is almost abusive in its angry howling.
Interestingly, the entire album contains this diversity in tone and attitude. Rice manipulates the sounds of the acoustic guitar, a cello, the piano, and precise drum beats to twist the melodies into steady and sometimes eerie tunes. Lisa Hannigan returns on this album to lend her sweet voice and play up the gruffness of Rice’s.
Regardless of the mood you may be in at the time, Rice is sure to devote a song to your emotional chaos. Each track on the album reviews the struggle to musical perfection that must have plagued Rice on his journey to the release. Overall, 9 is as successful musically as Rice’s first album, and just as hauntingly comforting as the listener realizes he or she isn’t the only one plagued by the intensity of human emotion.