Damien Rice - 9

Think you know Irish singer songwriter Damien Rice as the golden boy of moody acoustic songs? Well, his new album proves it is time to reconsider.

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Released 6 Nov 2006 | 14th Floor | By Jon Bye | Rating: 4
Damien Rice - 9

It can often be the case that once an artist becomes well established, they decide to take a completely different direction. Think you know Irish singer songwriter Damien Rice as the golden boy of moody acoustic songs? Well, his new album proves it is time to reconsider.

New album '9' in many ways feels as if it should have been before massive selling album 'O'. The tracks sound rough cut, lacking the studio polish that made 'O' so radio friendly - there's a rawness in the vocals and guitar work on this record. This, I believe, will get a mixed reception.

This rougher side to the songs gives Rice's writing a real edge. The language may be coarse in places, but it's used for emphasis rather than insult. It even becomes comic on catchy new single 'Coconut Skins'. As for the gritty recording, it can be seen to really emphasise the feeling behind these tracks. The dips in vocal volume as Rice breathes create a cadence that gives songs a greater emotive quality, stressing some areas of songs and near sighing for others. The occasional angry, fuzzed-up guitar gives convey humanity to a man formally considered the human incarnation of prozac.

As always with Rice songs are beautifully sculpted, original and from the heart. While there's the occasional tendency to follow the same chord patterns as his previous hits, the innovative vocals more than make up for it - opener '9 Crimes' being a prime example.

Overall, the sense with '9' is that this was not intended to be as mass-marketable as 'O', but more the album Rice wanted to make for himself. However, this won't stop it being a big hit. It's well written and more heartfelt than many other records this year. A great, chilled record that's ideal to both snuggle up to and to lift your mood.