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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice won fans around the world with his debut CD, simply titled “O.” In the four years since, Rice has teased his fans with a few small releases. Now, he has finally followed up with a second studio album called “Nine.”

Our reviewer Merdith Ochs says it's likely Rice doesn't care what his fans think of this new release.

MERDITH OCHS: If I had to come up with just one word to describe Damien Rice, that word would be uncompromising. What else can you say about a guy who's kept his distance from major labels, preferring to make records in his own style and at his own pace?

Now Rice's second album is being co-released by a major label, and what does he do? He includes a 16-minute track that sounds like running a wet finger around the edge of a glass. Then he drops the F-bomb on the album's most accessible song. Here it is, minus the expletive:

(Soundbite of Damien Rice)

Mr. DAMIEN RICE (Singer): (Singing) All I want from you is into your head. Will this day be true? Don't (unintelligible). We do what we need to be free and it leans on me like a ruthless dream. All I want from us is into your mind. We fake the thoughts and fracture the times.

OCHS: Damien Rice's singing is a gentle murmur that's capable of gale force at any moment. Like the iconoclastic performers he's been compared to, such as Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley, Rice's delivery is as telling as his lyrics. Listen to his voice soar upward on this song, presaging the crescendo that's about to happen.

(Soundbite of Damien Rice)

Mr. RICE: (Singing) And she may rise if I seem to be down. And she may wisely cling to the ground.

OCHS: As a performer, Damien Rice can belt it out but he's at his best and most powerful when subdued, like he is on this song.

(Soundbite of Damien Rice)

OCHS: Pondering the minutia of a former lover's new relationship, he turns loneliness into an almost flat lining ache.

Mr. RICE: (Singing) I held you like a lover. Happy hands. Your elbow and knee, appropriate place. And we ignored others. Happy plans. The delicate look upon your face. Our bodies moved in heart, hurting parts of your garden with no room for a pardon in a place where no one knows what we have done.

OCHS: If you loved Damien Rice's debut, his new one may leave you a little hungry and he probably doesn't care. Rice seems to make music for himself alone, and only when an artist is writing songs as if no one else is listening do we get songs as intimate and emotionally raw as this.

BLOCK: Damien Rice's new album is called "Nine." Our reviewer is Meredith Ochs.

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