The best of Damien Rice

Life

2014 has been the year that every musician you thought had disappeared announced that they were back. From Kate Bush playing her first live shows in 35 years to Jamie T suddenly reappearing from whatever hole he had been in, it wouldn’t be surprising if Richey Edwards popped back from being presumed dead. Damien Rice is the latest singer to make a surprise return although admittedly he had given the game away somewhat by touring throughout the year already. He returns with the promise of a new album, to be released in November, and a new single that premiered on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show last night.

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‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’ is short and sweet. It has all the attributes of typical Damien Rice. There are the delicate plucked guitar strings and fragile vocals, both of which swell together with strings to a sudden finish. At under two minutes long, the song gives the impression of being about to continue. The surprise caesura leaves the listener ready for the new music that is soon to be released.

Until then, why should we be excited that Damien Rice is releasing a new album?

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He’s always been quite a reclusive performer, with only two previously released albums. Rice has never been one to dominate the music media and the power of his music comes from the fact that there is no distraction from it. There is no denying that it is powerful. You only have to listen to ‘Rootless Tree’ to know that. The calmly played piano chords contrast with the tortured sounding voice singing “fuck you, fuck you, fuck you” for the chorus. The live version, recorded at Abbey Road, only takes this further as it is slowed down and stripped back, leaving Damien Rice’s and long time collaborator Lisa Hannigan’s vocals at the very centre of things.

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In terms of commercial success, ‘Cannonball’ was the song that was impossible to avoid on the radio. Yet ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ better captures the ethos of Rice’s writing. The solo stringed instrument that accompanies him as he sings “I can’t take my eyes off of you” effortlessly bridges the song into an entirely different passage of Lisa Hannigan’s singing. It was Rice’s first top 40 hit and is the best possible introduction to his music.

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The second album, ‘9’, demonstrated a new kind of confidence for Damien Rice, both musically and lyrically. Whilst he retained the stripped down, acoustic nature of much of his writing, the songs feel emotionally raw. They are more personal than the songs on ‘O’. This is nowhere more evident than in ‘Accidental Babies’. The song is the longest on the album but relies only on a piano accompaniment. It is possibly the most lyrically accomplished song released by Damien Rice as he laments the loss of a lover. As he does so, he pleads and questions unashamedly. The heartbreak that you can feel in the song does not diminish no matter how many times you listen to it.

Damien Rice is not known for joyful, sing a longs. We should be glad he isn’t. After all, everyone needs something to cry to once in a while. This November we will get new music with which to celebrate and commiserate sadness.

Damien Rice’s third studio album, ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’, will be released on 11th November.

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