After his somewhat disappointing sophomore album, 9, and an eight year hiatus from music, it was no stretch to wonder whether Damien Rice would return to music at all.
My Favourite Faded Fantasy, Rice’s third album, is most notably his first record without his vocal foil Lisa Hannigan. While her presence is definitely missed, she remains a central figure as the majority of these eight songs directly concern her and their relationship.
As seen in O and 9, Rice has never been afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve with relationships and heartbreak being the focus of a large portion of his work. This trend continues on My Favourite Faded Fantasy with deeply personal and introspective singles “I Don’t Want to Change You” and “The Greatest Bastard” serving as direct addresses to Hannigan.
Musically, the album provides plenty to make it the most dynamic, multi-layered record Rice has produced while still containing elements of his typical style. Delicate acoustic guitar, swelling string arrangements and climatic endings are all featured once more to great effect.
However, it is the things that feel new and fresh that argue the case for My Favourite Faded Fantasy being Rice’s best work to date. Produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, this collection of eight songs is definitely not lacking in ambition, with only one track failing to break the five minute barrier.
The choral ending on “Trusty and True”, the ambient album closer “Long Way Down” and the nine minute long “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” are all perfect examples of how Rice has expanded his musical scope to create a more cerebral, polished album while songs such as “Colour Me In” and “The Box” stay loyal to Rice’s folk roots.
There is no single that may be as radio friendly or catchy as the likes of “Cannonball” or “9 Crimes”, but every song is packed with weight and significance. Filled with regret and melancholy, the album can be a haunting experience at times but for every moment of longing and grief, there is a moment of beauty to counteract it.
While eight years may be a long time to wait for an album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy proves that it was time well spent. The music landscape has changed dramatically in the time between Rice’s departure and triumphant return, with many new singer-songwriters emerging with acclaim.
Despite this, Rice has ensured that he still stands among the best of them as My Favourite Faded Fantasy stands as his most accomplished record to date.
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