After an eight year span of musical odds and ends Damien Rice is back with this third solo album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy. A collection of only eight tracks, this marks a determined return for Rice who has seen a lot happen in those years since 2006’s 9 after perhaps wondering how to re-establish himself in a steadily swelling market . Collaborations, side projects and campaigning aside, Rice is obviously doing what he does best with these songs. Lyrically emotive, lushly arranged, delicately sung and masterfully handled by Rick Rubin, My Favourite Faded Fantasy is gem of considerable proportions.
Long-time fans of the former Juniper front man will be pleased to know that he has stayed true to his musical ethos and hasn’t tried anything too extreme. Those who aren’t fans but still appreciate what he does will be pleased to know that nothing on this album is played safe. The opening (and title) track has all the hallmarks of Rice’s previous work; whispering guitar, fluttering keys and that unmistakable restrained voice. The song’s melody is as compelling as its lyrical theme and the first stirring of strings is just a taster of what’s to come. Namely, the second track.
The nine and a half-minute beauty that is ‘It Takes A Lot To Know A Man’. By far the album’s most developed piece and one which puts to use some remarkable arrangements. Rice’s voice sounds deep and weary, even as the strings take hold and the song swells, he never let’s go of this effect. As the layers of additional, disjointed backing vocals emerge and the song breaks down to just a solitary piano we get to hear the musicality behind the piece. This song has epic written all over it.
‘The Greatest Bastard’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Change You’ are vintage Rice in so far as they hinge on melody and the sound of his voice, the latter once again utilising some excellent, cinematic string arrangements. With or without his vocals, this song is as emotionally redolent as his previous work. Lyrically, however, it is slightly lacking (“I just came across a manger out across the danger”) but it somehow takes nothing away from the song itself.
The second half of the album, while not necessarily reaching the heights of the first, is as emotionally naked as anything he has ever done. He is opening himself up on record and doing so with a commendable amount of candor. ‘Trusted and True’ is stripped back and earnest in everything it does, adding further authenticity to Rice’s self-exploratory mission. Closing with ‘Long Long Way’ and the refrian of “not enough” might seem a little meta for a record with only eight songs, but the playful little flutters of woodwind round of a truly wonderful album in hopeful style. Welcome back, Damien.