Review Summary: Damien Rice continues to make beautiful, melodic music. Unfortunately, his tired self-loathing schtick is starting to wear thin.
Damien Rice is a rather mellow guy. His sparsely minimalistic folk rock is populated with the emotion of cellos, lonely sound of arpeggiated guitars and pianos, occasional male/female vocal trade-offs, and self-pitying/condemning lyrics about how guilty he is of being a liar/cheat/all-around grey fellow.
What does Rice do well" To be honest, he's incredibly depressing. But music is all about emotion, and depressive, mellow moods fall under that umbrella, so his offering here is completely acceptable. Rice makes Coldplay sound happy by comparison. Despite being a “negative” emotion to many people, though, Rice does it incredibly well; this isn't an album that you're going to be rocking to anyways. Rice is also very good at sounding extremely sincere and genuine, despite the generic nature of his lyrics. He can manage to sound like he's whispering in the listener's ear at one moment, and then sound far-off and lost the next.
Where does Rice fall short" Well, on repeated listens, many of the songs get quite long, in the dragging sense of the word. His biggest fault, though, is that despite this apparently self-loathing that he has, he's never very specific about why exactly he's such a jerk. The album is metaphor-heavy, but the metaphors are all kept as vague as possible to allow as many listener's to relate to them as possible. I'd call it the “Keane and Linkin Park Syndrome.”
Highlights of the album include “9 Crimes” and “Rootless Tree.” “9 Crimes” features a beautiful melody and the gorgeous vocals of guest Lisa Hannigan interplaying with Rice's. “Rootless Tree,” despite it's expletive-filled chorus, has some of the most emotion-filled vocals on the album, with the song starting off with an optimistic-sounding guitar and morphing into a radio-friendly hook of a song.
If you like your folk rock dark, depressing, melancholy, and emotional, then I suggest picking up 9. However, if you add “deep” to that list of adjectives, then I would look elsewhere.
Listen to: “9 Crimes,” “The Animals Were Gone,” “Rootless Tree,” “Accidental Babies”