Album Review: Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

By on Thursday, 6th November 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Damien Rice My Favourite Faded Fantasy CoverWhen I’ve listened to Damien Rice‘s music in the past, I’ve always found it to be brutal, hard on both the heart and the hearing. His debut album ‘O’ was lyrically edgy, with songs like ‘Volcano’ and ‘The Blower’s Daughter’, and second album ‘9’ was full of angst and frustration, as evidenced by the pugilistic refrain of ‘Rootless Tree’. So when Rice announced after an 8-year hiatus that he would be releasing a new album, I winced internally at the prospect. Surprisingly though, Rice’s latest effort, titled ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’, is more subtle and introspective than his earlier work, and it displays a greater degree of musical elegance.

Opening with eponymous track ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’, the album immediately displays a bit of a theatrical flair. Starting off as a desperate torch song, it calls to mind the main character in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. The music is a metaphorical mix of poignant melody and ever-so-slightly discordant harmony that eventually succumbs to an almost frenetic sadness. The instrumental arrangement of ‘It Takes a Lot to Know a Man’ is similarly beguiling, featuring an unusually complex counterpoint woven among the vocal line, the contemplative piano riff and the soaring string melody.

Rice employs an impressive level of vocal sensitivity in ‘The Greatest Bastard’, where he approaches the melodicism of bel canto style while still maintaining his typically rough, emotionally-charged vocal timbre. He makes effective use of his falsetto throughout the album, but in the full voice moments in the chorus of this track, he squarely hits the intersection between beautiful singing and potent expression.

Lyrically, Rice is somewhat more restrained on this album than I might have expected, though he hasn’t lost his sense of viscerally evocative poetry, such as the “dogless bone” simile of ‘Colour Me In’. Recent single ‘I Don’t Want to Change You’ is probably the most predictable track on the album, though its repetitive chorus doesn’t necessarily hinder the song’s beauty or its effectiveness. Placed in the middle of the track sequence, it provides a nice mental respite from intensity of the first three songs, and without breaking the general mood of the record.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/FnzHOsiaJns[/youtube]

Where ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’ opens its namesake album with a hazy trip down memory lane, final tracks ‘Trusty and True’ and ‘Long Long Way’ close the album with a feeling of looking ahead to the future. The symmetry is appealing, but despite the length and expansiveness of the individual tracks (‘It Takes a Lot to Know a Man’ comes close to 10 minutes all on its own), the end of the album feels a bit abrupt, like a film screen gone black before the ending is assured. I’m of two minds on the issue of the overall tracklisting: on one hand, the concise length conveys what Rice wants to say without extra fluff or froth; on the other, the lack of denouement and resolution in the last two tracks left me wishing for something more.

Performed without the softening effect of Rice’s former partner Lisa Hannigan, the songs on this album depend on the strength of his own singing and the endurance of his love for the act of songwriting. Rice himself describes the new album as being “sung straight into the metaphorical mirror”, which may account for his somewhat gentler approach. Known for being a perfectionist and temperamental, Rice has apparently calmed those self-critical tendencies with the assistance of producer Rick Rubin (Angus and Julia Stone, Jake Bugg, Ed Sheeran), who convinced Rice to “open up and have faith in the songs”. These are certainly songs worth believing in, and the album is well worth the lengthy wait.

8.5/10

Damien Rice’s third studio album ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’ is available now on Atlantic Records. He will play a sold out show at the London Palladium this Friday, the 7th of November. Previous TGTF coverage of Damien Rice can be found here.

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One Response

9:03 pm
6th November 2014

Can’t wait to hear the full album…I know what you’re getting at with Damien in the past about it being heard on the heart, yet for me he always cheers me up when I feel down…Maybe a bit of reverse psychology?

Ah this song though and these two lines:

“I’ve never been with anyone
In the way I’ve been with you”

He makes you remember love again 🙂

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