While Damien Rice’s 2002 debut release, O, slowly gathered critical acclaim, and awareness of his talents subsequently diffused through alternative music circles, Rice’s musical presence came to a heady realization in 2004 when “Blowers Daughter” became a sonic billboard for Nike Nichols’ film Closer. Almost five years later, Rice has released a follow up, 9, this time to an aware and expectant world. One might suspect this puts added pressure on an artist. But Damien Rice has always been a man of his own defining, and 9 clearly sees him maintaining such a stance.
Aided by Rice’s plaintive piano, Lisa Hannigan’s vocals soothe us into a classically brooding ballad to open the album. As Rice takes over the vocalizing, Vyvienne Long’s cello soars before Rice and Hannigan start trading vocal countenance. And just as the song reaches its crescendoing pinnacle, it all falls away leaving nothing but a gentle piano line. Rice has a gift for such musical seduction which songs such as “Elephant” and “Accidental Babies” also demonstrate. And he also has an infectious command of dynamics – something that “Rootless Tree” lays firm testament too.
9 is enchanting, awkward, honest, raw, and beautiful. And Damien Rice proves that the only expectations that matter are those imposed by the creator.
(Photo by Robbie Fry)