RTÉ Entertainment - "9"

With every year that has passed since the release of Rice's 2002 solo debut 'O', the sense of expectation has grown and so too has the doubt in some people's minds that he would spend the rest of his career trying to live down that album.

But if the pressure was on, it never sounds like it here. And talk about heavier and noisier songs has, with two exceptions, proved to be just that: '9' picks up so seamlessly where 'O' left off that it could be the second half of a double album.

It's only on 'Rootless Tree' and 'Me, My Yoke and I' that the instruments take a pounding; elsewhere Rice and his band mates do all the things that made people fall for them in the first place - the beautiful trade-off vocals and the gentle guitars put to lyrics that cut to the bone.

The sequencing of the songs sounds perfect, but then, every track is strong enough that you could probably re-arrange them any way you wanted and '9 Songs' would still sound as good.

As the year ends, two of the best singer-songwriter albums have come from Irish artists: Rice and Fionn Regan. Regan's debut explores more moods and that's something Rice should think about in the future.

During the best moments here he shrinks the space between artist and listener so that the songs become a kind of conversation between people who know each other very well.

And like all the oldest friends, you hope he won't leave it so long to get in touch the next time.

Harry Guerin, 4/5


LA Times - "9"  November 5, 2006

Damien Rice
"9" (Heffa/Vector/Warner Bros)
Lofty ambitions of a wild Irish rose

THE final 15-plus minutes of Irishman Rice's second album is what seems to be silence. Turn it up and it's actually a nearly inaudible ambient tone. Pretentious? Sure. But also practical. After the preceding 52 minutes of sometimes vertiginous swings between anger, tenderness, despair, joy, loving embraces, enraged rejections, sketch-like understatement and purposeful overkill, you'll need some time to just breathe.

The album (in stores Nov. 14) starts with a different kind of breath, the gorgeous soprano of Rice's regular vocal partner, Lisa Hannigan, rather than Rice himself. From there, Rice and his chamber-like band achieve Van Morrison-Jeff Buckley expressiveness as he traverses the treacherous contours of modern love with the deft, literary dynamics of an audacious novel.

There are not as many revelations as on Rice's acclaimed 2002 debut, "O," but it still can be sonically thrilling.

He also extends his talent for turning the seemingly prosaic into the starkly poetic: "Do you brush your teeth before you kiss?" he asks a departed lover, a solitary piano shadowing the words. It's so involving that by the time Hannigan's voice, solo again, trails out resignedly on "Sleep Don't Weep," there is nothing left but to breathe.

Steve Hochman, 3.5 - "9"

Not quite as endearing as his raw and seductive 2002 debut, O, the second full-length album by Irish troubadour Damien Rice finds him taking a more slapdash approach to his lyrics and arrangements, with balmy tracks like "Rootless Tree," "Coconut Skins," and "Me, My Yoke, and I" seemingly made up and recorded on the spot. Strange then that it took so long for 9 to actually arrive, with just a handful of odd collaborations (Tori Amos, Herbie Hancock) and one promising benefit single ("Unplayed Piano") to hold fans over during the four-year delay. Nothing here quite achieves the lush poetry on display there, although Rice and his singing companion Lisa Hannigan come close with the creepy opening track "9 Crimes" and the damaged whisper-to-a-scream ballad, "Elephant."

Aidin Vaziri - "9"

Four years is a dreadfully long time to wait for an album from anyone, let alone a man renowned for his fierce independence, who could no doubt make an acoustic guitar weep merely by stepping into an adjoining room. But finally, the long-awaited follow up to the quietly inventive and universally-acclaimed O arrives. And those who have followed the evolution in his live act since 2002 may be surprised to hear that there is such a seamless transition between that album and 9. His sophomore record offers affirmation rather than progression, but what a rewarding set it is regardless; gradual, considered and accomplished. It's hard to contrast too intently with past work when each song demands such focused immersion from the listener. Full band pieces such as the perky and most conventional "Rootless Tree", the rattled Jeff Buckley-esque riffing of "Me, My Yoke and I" and the eventual explosive climax of the brilliant Radiohead style ballad "Elephant" are noticeably cohesive, but his real strength remains alone with his broken, weighty voice and soft, tentative steps down his piano keyboard. "9 Crimes" and "Sleep Don't Weep", both enhanced by the angelic fortitude of vocalist Lisa Hannigan, are immediate highlights. And "Accidental Babies" is heartbeat-stealing in its lonely beauty, the kind of private counsel you would happily wait years for.

James Berry


The Guardian - "9" - November 3 2006

A heartbreak album for those who weep along to vintage Radiohead and Leonard Cohen rather than George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Damien Rice's 2002 debut, titled 0, was multi-platinum balm for the newly dumped. His second album finds him no longer trembling on the brink of romantic meltdown, but wallowing in the deepest pit of despair. He quivers, moans and pleads in obsessive contemplation of the darling departed in a self-dramatising simulation of catharsis that wrings from his performances an ocean of emotion when a drop of understated restraint would prove more telling. Cellist Vyvienne Long and singer Lisa Hannigan again achingly upholster Rice's ho-hum strums, and again the last track, Sleep Don't Weep, has an old-hat trick ending. But Accidental Babies spotlights the essence of his appeal: you don't write red-raw words like these unless you're for real. Damien Rice is that rare beast, a lamb in ham's clothing.

Mat Snow, 2/5