REWIND: O by Damien Rice is 13 years old this week - JOE ranks its best 5 songs
"Still a little bit of your song in my ear".
If you were studying in an Irish college from '02 onwards, the chances are that you have a copy of Damien Rice's epochal debut album, O.
This week marks the record's 13th anniversary, a fact that made us feel very old, so we've decided to rank our top 5 tracks from one of Ireland's most critically and commercially acclaimed records.
O established Damien Rice as a global star as seen by the fact he won the Shortlist Prize (the US equivalent of the Mercury Music Prize), which had never been won by an Irish artist before.
Truth be told, ranking this album's songs was almost an impossible task because the whole record plays out as one incredibly atmospheric, haunting and immersive piece of music. But we gave it a go anyway.
We'll be honest, it was a 50/50 decision between this one and Cold Water but we've opted for this because it's one of the few optimistic and positive tracks on the album.
One of the defining characteristics of O was its combination of acoustic lamentations with swirling string arrangements, and they're very prominent here with the relatively upbeat tone.
Unlike the majority of other tracks on the album, the vocals on Amie are 100% provided by the Celbridge troubadour, as he recalls that sudden moment when love enters, leaves and then re-appears in your life.
The song has a wonderful conversational feel to it because Rice's lyrics are constructed from the point-of-view of two lovers that meet up to discuss the trials and tribulations that being in a relationship involve.
It's almost impossible for your spirits not to be lifted by those strings at the end that carry the song into Cheers Darlin'.
4) Older Chests
Romance and heartache are the recurring themes on O but this song is arguably the singer's most distinct break from these motifs.
Music and lyrics are always subjective but this song always resonated with me because I felt that it represented Rice taking a look at his own upbringing and the figures that shaped his outlook on the world, especially the men in his life.
Both choruses start with male characters that require help in order to keep up with the changing circumstances in their worlds.
There's a strong sense in the song that it's the mistakes and decisions that people make that defines them. Given that it was written just a few months after Rice had controversially departed his previous band, Juniper, after they had broken into the Irish mainstream, it adds to the autobiographical rawness.
You get the feeling that the roaming, free-wheeling and nomadic imagery evoked from these lyrics are directly influenced by the eight months that the Celbridge man spent travelling, busking and recording new songs in the UK and Italy before returning to Ireland.
If ever a song demonstrated the seismic importance of Lisa Hannigan on this album and Rice's career to date then it's Volcano.
Her ethereal voice combines with those meandering cello notes to give the track a unique quality that made it stand out from any other generic song, featuring a good singer with an acoustic guitar.
Implied or not, given the couples tumultuous relationship, there's a feeling that there's also a bit of friction, tension and vagueness between the two as both singers cut across and challenge each other while also bringing out their respective best.
Not many know what Hannigan and Rice are really like off the stage but there's something prophetic about the lyrics in the second chorus, "What I am to you is not real/What I am to you you do not need/What I am to you is not what you mean to me/You give me miles and miles of mountains/And I'll ask for the sea".
2) The Blower's Daughter
The arrangement, tone and lyrics in this song feel almost as raw and open as the wind that bites away at the singer's face in the video.
This was the moment when Irish fans listening to the record suddenly realised, "holy hell, here's this lad from Celbridge that's baring his soul to the world in a way that was only acceptable for singers like Elliot Smith and Nick Drake to do so before".
There isn't enough superlatives to describe this song but the words 'haunting', 'beautiful', 'powerful', 'honest' and 'restrained' all come to mind.
So... where does everyone stand on the divisive final lyric 13 years on?
This might be a slightly populist decision but rarely before has an Irish artist managed to capture the contradictions, subtle truths and harsh lessons that being in love involves.
The genius of this song is that it taps into the variety of different stages that being in a a relationship entails. Everyone will find themselves considering all of the following at some point.
Dwelling on happy memories that simultaneously make you sad, questioning your decision to stay in/end a relationship, lying to someone that you love, taking risks that can ultimately hurt you, escaping your own insecurities and taking a step back from causing your own romantic anguish are all prevalent here.
All of these could easily be forgotten though, because the guitar is so emotive and soothing, that you feel like the tune is throwing a big blanket over you whilst handing you a cup of tea and lighting the fire next to you.
What do you guys think? As we said, it's been very hard to just select five tracks, it was a very 'Delicate' process, but let us know if there's any glaring missing.
If there's any other albums celebrating birthdays', that you feel should be give the JOE list treatment, then let us know.