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Music Review: Damien Rice – O

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Damien Rice challenges audiences to connect with their emotions in his solo debut album O. Each of his songs more heartfelt and honest than the previous, allowing listeners not only to understand his music, but to experience it as well.

O was released in early 2002 and peaked at number eight on the album charts and produced two top 30 singles in the UK. The album has received the Shortlist music prize and paved way for Rice's placement on "The Best 50 Irish Acts Right Now" by the Irish times in 2009.

Rice began his musical career, under the stage name "Dodima," with the Irish band Juniper. Juniper received great success and had a major record label deal when Rice decided he wasn't interested anymore. Rice felt too much pressure and interference from the record label and decided to go solo.

Before finding success as a solo artist, Rice spent time as a farmer in Tuscany, but came back to Ireland with hopes of returning to music. He then traveled around Europe as a street performer, until he came into contact with his cousin, music producer David Arnold, who provided Rice with portable recording equipment. From there, Rice began to record his debut solo album, O.

Rice's musical entrepreneurship is evident in his songs, with his use of modern and classic techniques and instruments. Including opera, cello, violin, piano, and electric guitar. It's a combination of sounds that work perfectly together to form something that still sounds familiar.

The album begins subtly with the song "Delicate" is about a sensitive relationship between two lovers. This song leads perfectly into the next and more seductive track, "Volcano." This song was a top 30 single in the U.K., and is characterized by overlapping female harmonies, by Lisa Hannigan, with the cello.

The other top 30 single from this album is "Cannonball." This is among the more quiet and sweet songs on the album. Another, shorter song, on the album is "Cold Water." This song is a duet with Hannigan, and it calls to a higher power, begging for guidance.

Rice's use of string instruments is beautiful, particularly in the fifth track, "Older Chests." A song about life changing through time and age, all through recalled memories.

The song "Eskimo" was originally written to be recorded with Juniper, but the recording studio didn't feel that it was "radio friendly enough," which ended up being one of the reasons for Rice's solo career. This song is among the more cheerful, and climaxes with an opera overture.

Many of the songs on the album are about love. "Amie" would be a perfect example, this was among one of my favorite songs on the album. It is a honest and heartfelt song about a change of relationship. Another example would be, "Blower's Daughter." This song's powerful vocals and subtle harmonies make for an interesting listen.

"Cheers Darlin'" is a rare song that sounds exactly like what it is attempting to convey. The song is about a lost love, and the lyrics are spilt out almost as if they were drunken slurs. The beat is created from clinking glasses, and the voice sounds almost like a hidden voice in a room full of people. Jazz horns and piano rumble in the background. Although, the music is captivating, the lyrics hit the audience with sounds of vengeance and regret.

The ninth track, "I Remember," sounds almost like two completely different songs. It begins with Hannigan singing sweetly with only an acoustic guitar about believing in a found love. Half way through the song Rice comes in powerfully with percussion, strings, and bellowing vocals. His painful lyrics are combined with chaotic instrumentation, ending only with the bass.

O is Rice's masterpiece, and quite possibly one of the best albums I have ever heard. The only warning I could give is you must listen to it more than once to appreciate it. I would recommend it to anyone that loves music by Glen Hansard, Coldplay, or Keane.

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About Colbi Beam

  • Dusty Hixenbaugh

    Nice review! I obsessed over this album when it was released but haven’t revisited it lately. I bet in a month or so, when we start seeing “Best of the Decade” music lists, O will feature prominently.

  • I remember “Cannonball” in an episode of The O.C. my freshman year of high school. I’ve loved Mr. Rice ever since.

  • Rice Authority

    very nice song, everytime i hear this it reminds me of my ex. hehehe