Singer-Songwriter Damien Rice essentially went missing after the release of his second album wildly successful ‘9 Crimes’ 8 years ago. He is arguably one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 21st Century (everyone from Ed Sheeran to Paolo Nutini adore him) and he just vanished. There were rumours floating about all over the place, some people even thought that he joined a cult. The truth is he’s been gone for 8 years following the exit of his old band member and girlfriend. She used to play a prominent piece in his music and in some ways she still is, even if she isn’t a vocalist anymore she will always be part of Rice’s songwriting in terms of lyrics and the style that we got used to all those years ago.
But now he’s back with his comeback record ‘Favourite Faded Fantasy’ and it’s gorgeous. Rice has written songs that are so true to himself, as he still has the ability to write songs that will be make your heart ache. He has new found depth from his absence exploring his inner self, and has been channeling his inner thoughts and battles you go through when mourning a relationship. The opening track to this albums set the tone for the rest the of LP fantastically with it having Rice dream of hearing, touching and fantasising about what it all could have been with a loved one you no longer see. He’s been questioning how well you have to know another person for a relationship to work in terms of gender and every other way on the aptly named song ‘It Takes a Lot To know a man’, whereas ‘The Greatest Bastard’ has Rice questioning himself about how good a person he is, he paints a horrible picture of himself as he goes into his explicit side singing about spreading his women’s legs and other things, he sings vulgar lyrics in such a tender way.
There are so many songs on this album that are completely heartbreaking. Rice manages to write these songs that feel easily connectable while still sounding so personal to him, you almost feel like part of the failed relationship. You know exactly what went wrong and how he felt it could have been saved. The occasional female voice appears on this album almost as like a faint memory or reminder of the loves one he lost like on the song ‘Trusty and True’. The way in which he sings these songs with such passion that he manages to somehow control is fantastic. He goes from his airy whispering falsetto to a more sturdy voice within moments without you noticing like on the opening and closing track on here.
With the new depth comes greater musical ventures. With Rick Rubin as a producer, a lot of these songs have massive crescendos with massive instrumentation and it often goes from a whisper to blaring out your speakers without messing with the intimacy of it all. The opening two tracks on this LP demonstrate this brilliantly with the second track being split up into a nine minute epic that feels like it’s done in chapters. The song ‘The Box’ is another moment where the instrumentals swell brilliantly to the point where they get so loud that they threaten to overpower Rice’s own voice, but when taken into the context of the song it simply solidifies the emotional impact especially when his guitar playing gets more rampant. Of course there is the occasional wall of noise effect that you expect from Rubin produced albums but honestly most of the time it’s so delicate sounding and rarely sounds overproduced.
In a lot of ways the transition Damien Rice has made with this LP is very similar to that of Bon Iver between his first two LPs. In the gap he has decided to take the risk of bringing in a whole load more instrumentation into the same style of songwriting. In this instance Rice betters Justin Vernon in that the instrumentation on here complements his lyrics and songwriting so much more than Bon Iver’s second LP. Rice said he doesn’t care if this record is a commercial success or not, and you can tell why. This record feels like he has poured a part of his life into it so that now he can finally move on, as a result we have his darkest and most intimate record yet. A record that along with Sun Kil Moon’s ‘Benji’, has some of the year’s most personal songwriting.