Given the tremendous acclaim which Damien Rice’s debut ‘O’ received, it could be thought unlikely that he could measure up to the same level of artistry. It is always nice when assumptions are proved wrong. Rather than simply repackage a similar range of songs and the same blend of sounds, Rice has offered us something different with this latest release while still retaining his own style.
Like his first release, this album is beautiful, sad and soulful. But 9 offers a different focus. While O seemed almost sure of its own success with its confident uniqueness, 9 is a little less sure of itself. This is a feeling which is entirely appropriate given that the album deals with longing, loss, and questioning emotions. It’s almost as if the album is searching for its own place in the world. From the first listen the album is entirely satisfying, yet its true beauty really shines after a few more times through.
‘the animals were gone’ is a song tinged with sadness and features a beautiful lyrical performance which has Rice’s voice soaring to the highest of highs and sinking to the lowest of lows. It truly is a masterful and awe inspiring song for the listener to behold. ‘dogs’ is enriched with a more hopeful sound and is a more traditionally beautiful song. Like so much of his music this song has the ability to sweep listeners up and take them on a journey through strangely surreal landscapes which showcase his voice both individually and within richer, warmer musical harmonies. Changing his style with ‘me, my yoke and i’ Rice explores a rougher rawer sound which begins in the darkest of depths and is later joined by a heavier rock accompaniment. Rice’s voice stretches and scratches at the edges as he loses himself in the song, pulling the listener in as we once again travel to a strange new musical world of his own creation. It is here where Rice pushes beyond long-standing musical barriers and boundaries, surrounding us with a more disturbing and darker sound.
‘accidental babies’ is a delicate song which starts with a more subdued vocal performance and a sparse arrangement which adds to its fragile beauty. Rice gives his emotions completely to this poetic song and lays his heart bare in a way that will have listeners straining to hear more in this searching look at the reality of love and broken relationships. ‘sleep don’t weep’ constructs beautiful and stark imagery which is complemented perfectly by the unassuming arrangement. While it is beautiful in its simplicity, the song doesn’t feel cold; it is a loving song which feels warm and filled with human emotion and experience.
While this album may not contain an immediately obvious and heart-stoppingly beautiful song on first hearing like ‘Blower’s Daughter’ from O, the wonder of this album is revealed with a little more patience. It is an album which delivers hauntingly memorable sounds and lyrics, at times seeming so lonely, so sad and so introspective that in listening you hope to offer the album some comfort and companionship. Like any good relationship time spent together is time well spent.