Damien Rice is this month’s Yahoo! Emerging Artist of the Month, but do not fear if you have yet to hear of this Irish singer-songwriter. “O,” Rice’s solo debut, has received both popular and critical acclaim across the Atlantic, but has yet to make an imprint here in the states.With the album’s release and increased television and concert events scheduled here, the American public and critics will soon take notice of Rice’s unquestionable talent and gorgeous sound.While most artists seek a strong exploding opener to mark their arrival, in “O”‘s opening track, “Delicate,” Rice almost tiptoes onto the scene and, once there, his melodic and hushed tones do not give in. “Delicate” is an appropriate introduction for the disc, providing listeners with the bare bones, yet powerful, sound that resonates in Rice’s music and can only be accounted for by the fact that eight out of the 10 songs featured on the disc were recorded in Rice’s bedroom. Each song includes little more than Rice, his acoustic guitar and a rhythm section, but the common addition of strings gives this album a uniquely beautiful and original sound, combining folk, rock, jazz and, at times, chamber music. However, the most striking and powerful instrument on the album is Rice’s evocative voice, ranging from a weak, hushed whisper to a hoarse shout on many songs, including “Volcano” and “I remember.””O” is an enchanting, puzzling, and truthful force of sound as Rice prods into the dark void, which inhabits the deepest of all relationships. One of Rice’s gems, “Cannonball” explores the feeling one has when a partner is gone physically, but emotionally still there. The lines “Stones taught me to fly/Love taught me to lie/Life taught me to die/So it’s not hard to fall/When you float like a cannonball,” showcase Rice’s use of seemingly depressing images and conceits in an overall beautifully arranged song.See RICE, Page 12The definitive song on the album is “The Blower’s Daughter” and like Rice’s other songs it is highly confessional. The repetition of the line “I can’t take my mind off of you,” uses Rice’s voice and bare essential instrumentals to create a quiet, lasting impression. The song develops like a complex conversion between a former couple with Rice’s lyrics answered by a female voice halfway into the song. Upon the song’s completion the listener is left in a similar state to the one Rice faced when he penned the lyrics, questioning and pondering his status in the eyes and mind of a former love. The most original and stylistic work on the record is by far “Eskimo.” Starting with all the characteristics of Rice’s previous songs, it later erupts into an operatic climax, including some Finnish excerpts complemented by a full orchestra. Another progressive song is “Cheers Darlin’.” With its vivid images and jazzy simplicity, the song conveys the tried and true story of man reminiscing and regretting a lost love over a few drinks. The repeated chiming of glasses together adds to the narrative substance of the lyrics and yet again the thrust of Rice’s voice remains in the forefront. The poetic feel of “O” is apparent in that in all its quietness and simplicity it says so much and leaves such a lasting impression, while weaving a tapestry of related stories. Each of “O”‘s ten songs, like the stanzas of a poem, holds onto its own original and individual meaning, while still meshing with the overall theme the album is producing as a whole. One listen to this CD will leave the listener spellbound as they ponder what exactly they had just heard, while a second listen will impress the listener with Rice’s oddly rewarding tales of heartbreak. Rice’s new and refreshing sound will begin to take hold here in America as he gets more concert dates, like his April 16 appearance at the Beacon Theatre in New York City – his closest date to Rochester – and his CD becomes more available, making him a future force in music.
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