I know I’ve missed so many great albums this year, but one album I’m glad doesn’t fall into that category was the long-awaited return of everyone’s favorite (or favourite) melancholy Irishman, Damien Rice. My Favourite Faded Fantasy is well worth the eight long years we’ve been waiting.
The years away were apparently quite the growing period for Rice. And from what he’s said in interviews, during that time he was wondering right along with the rest of us whether he would ever release anything again. Before the hiatus, his life crashed and burned, his relationship with Lisa Hannigan publicly fell apart, and he forgot how to write music. It’s the sort of scenario we’ve seen in art for as long as there has been history. So often this is the part of the story that ends in self-destruction, suicide or overdose or at least the napalming of every good thing.
Damien Rice found his way out.
In an unsurprisingly honest interview you should read, he told Irish Independent: “I invited all these different sides of myself to dinner – the arrogant fucker, the really nice guy, the over-polite fella – and we all just sat down and had a lot of dinners together and slowly, when I made friends with all these different crazy personalities that were going on in my head, I started to feel less angry and less frustrated and everything just started to open up and then I started to reach for the guitar again and tinkling at the piano again, and I started spotting all these things that I had done in the past that led to this thing happening, and so my finger-pointing completely changed.”
The resulting album is remarkable. Rick Rubin’s production is beautiful; big strings and sparse vocals in just the right places, always with that autumnal feel Rice does so well. As much as any other singer/songwriter I know of, he exposes the entirety of his soul on the track and in performances. He is so remarkably honest in his music, and so it’s no surprise that he has released an album that overflows with the hard-fought clarity of that time in the darkness. Most often My Favourite Faded Fantasy sounds like a letter to Hannigan all these years later, still full of fondness, regret, and heartbreak.
I’d say I’m sorry for the circumstances while still grateful they led to the creation of this wonderful album, but Rice says he isn’t sorry for anything because of how much he’s learned. So instead, I just hope to apply some of his well earned lessons to my own life, inviting all of the hurting and disparate parts of myself to come together for coffee so we can figure out how to make amends and create something beautiful together.