Damien Rice’s sophomore album ‘9’ delivers

Liana Aghajanian

Irish songwriter Damien Rice’s sophomore album “9” is an emotional, ballad-filled record with substantial tracks that do not disappoint. Other tracks, thoughs, with their perplexed lyrics and awkward pauses, act as cushioning in between, hardly supporting the other well-written songs with enough padding to carry this album to its end.

Complete with 10 new tracks and released last month, “9” is the follow-up album to his successful and heavily praised debut album, “0,” the songs of which have been used in numerous TV shows and films, including “The Blower’s Daughter,” which was featured in the 2004 film “Closer.”

Recorded at his home studio and “in various places and spaces,” as Rice says on the sleeve of the album cover, and four years in the making, Rice has a lot of material to remark upon in “9.” In “Accidental Babies,” a heavy yet tender saga about a love affair, Rice declares, “Do you brush your teeth before you kiss? Do you miss my smell? And is he bold enough to take you on? Do you feel like you belong?” The song, with its poignant lyrics and genuine singing, is not only relatable but is also not overpowered by the music, which includes a piano solo that accompanies Rice’s trembling voice.

In “Elephant,” the album’s strongest track, Rice voice is not only bolder than on any other song, but it also has quite an incredible range, which he showcases against lyrics about a love gone wrong. Though this is not Rice’s strongest lyrical work, it is the only track which contains the most solid music, where a guitar solo leads to full accompaniment with drums and electric guitars.

The album takes an unexpected and disappointing turn, however, with the song “Dogs,” whose lyrics are not only childlike and confusing but might cause an emotional disconnection for listeners.

“She lives with an orange tree/The girl that does yoga/She picks the dead ones from the ground/When we come over,” Rice sings without putting much effort into these lyrics.

“Dogs” is the album’s weakest track, while “Coconut Skins” and “Rootless Tree,” which is the next single that will be released after “9 Crimes,” are also lacking. In “Rootless Tree, the lyrics are contrite and at times more vulgar than they need to be. Cursing does not suit Rice, as it does not match other emotionally charged male singer-songwriters of his time, such as James Blunt and David Gray.

Except for outstanding tracks like “Accidental Babies,” “Elephant” and the last track, “Sleep Don’t Which,” on which a peculiar extra 15 minutes of silence are provided, the music is not as strong, melodies not as unique, and the lyrics seem to fail Rice and not measure up to his hit album “O.”

Fans of Rice will be able to forgive him for flaws in “9” and praise him for his successes, though it is definitely the kind of album you have to listen to alone, in your car, while you are thinking about past relationships and unrequited love. It will definitely require quite an emotional state and multiple listening sessions to fully appreciate “9,” as you leave the 10 tracks searching for a depth and substance that is not there.