Oops…Damien Rice has done it again.  Three years after the Irish singer-songwriter had us weep with 2003’s Shortlist Prize winning O, Rice has returned with another round of seductive ballads.   Vocal companion Lisa Hannigan has returned to provide the essence, as Shane Fitzsimmons (bass) Vyvinne Long (cello) Tom Osander (drums) and Joel Shearer ( guitars) nail the “sparse climatic" on 9.

Beginning with the tender creeping piano intro of “9 Crimes 5,” and Hannigan’s lonesome vocals, 9 immediately starts where O left off filling the three-year layoff with another “Ricesque” ballad. “Elephant” blossoms from soft whisper to a feverish bawl in the vein of O’s  goosebumper“The Blowers Daughter.”  “Cococnut Skins” draws from 60’s era folk with it’s upbeat balladry and sing-along harmony, and Rice throws a curve ball on the break-up anthem “Rootless Tree” where he screams “Fuck You/Fuck You/Fuck You/And All You’ve Been Through!”

Rice’s lyrics remain dark, stirring and prophetic, yet as he expands his sound on 9 with more upbeat tracks, his message gets lost in the whirl of noise on “Me, My Yoke, and I.” As for the experimental conclusion “Sleep Don’t’ Weep,” featuring 15 minutes of extended noise, it is a failed experiment.  As far as sophomore releases go, 9 is as good as they get, while Rice summons a sound that can now distinctively be called that of Damien Rice.

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