Damien Rice enjoyed a breakthrough of the spectacular variety with his debut album O in 2002. The album sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK alone and was certified 10x platinum in Rice’s native Ireland. 2006 follow-up 9 garnered critical acclaim and whilst it fell short of O’s incredible sales it still sold well. 8 years on from that album Rice is finally back with new album My Favourite Faded Fantasy which was released this week.
My Favourite Faded Fantasy is a collection of 8 new tracks ranging from four and a half to nine and a half minutes in length. Rice has always been about quality rather than quantity and he continues that trend with this release. Fans of Rice’s previous work will be pleased to know that the singer-songwriter wears his heart on his sleeve on this record as much as he ever has before. It is a collection of beautifully crafted songs with understated arrangements and heartfelt lyrics.
The set opens with title track My Favourite Faded Fantasy. The song has a slow build and for the first two minutes or so it’s mostly Rice and his guitar. As the song reaches the end of its just over 6 minutes run time the instrumentation fills out to include piano, strings, drums and electric which serve to swell the emotional impact of the lyrics which talk of not being able to move past a relationship that has been meaningful and all-consuming. It’s a bold start to an album that takes you on a journey both sonically and musically and never once lets go of its grip.
There’s much to enjoy over the course of My Favourite Faded Fantasy. Rice’s trademark candour is intact over the course of the record. It Takes A Lot To Know A Man marries a piano melody with sweeping strings as Rice sings about the everyday struggles a person goes through and the various roles they take on over their lives. The song also explores the complexities of the opposite sex too, from a man’s perspective of course.
Rice has never been as candid as he is on The Greatest Bastard. The lyrics smack of the pain of a breakup and Rice asks his former lover ‘am I the greatest bastard that you know? The only one that let you go? The one you hurt so much you cannot bear?’ It takes a real man to admit his mistakes and flaws and Rice opens up allowing the listener to feel like they know him intimately.
Elsewhere on the album lead single I Don’t Want To Change You feels familiar for fans of Rice’s previous work, The Box sees the artist seemingly struggling with the pressures and expectations put upon him by fame, and Trusty and True transforms for a soft folk song into something altogether bigger and beautiful. The album comes to a close with the sparse and hushed Long, Long Way, which paints a dreamy and ethereal soundscape.
Our favourite moment on the record comes on Colour Me In, a song that is one of the simplest on the record. It takes Rice’s journey full circle echoing the finest moments on O but fitting seamlessly into My Favourite Faded Fantasy. The song sees Rice lamenting a life alone and asking an object of his affections to let him love them. It’s beautiful, it’s heart breaking and it’s incredibly raw.
My Favourite Faded Fantasy is a triumphant return for Rice. It may have taken 8 years for the album to arrive but it doesn’t feel like that once you listen to the record. Rice remains one of the world’s finest singer-songwriters and with My Favourite Faded Fantasy he’s created a bold and beautiful record that is as close to a masterpiece as you can get.