Damien Rice 9

Damien Rice’s brand of sleepy, introspective songwriting instantly appeals to professional café loiterers, teenage girls and their moms. He has a built-in audience and that whole handsome troubadour look happening for him, so he can get sometimes get away with being a bit bland. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t call him out on it. Singer Lisa Hannigan — who often sounds like a more sedate Kate Bush — intermittently offers her voice on 9. If her participation accomplishes anything, it’s to illustrate how indistinct Rice’s vocals truly are. Not to say that he has a bad voice; he proves his vocal chops well enough on "Grey Room,” "Elephant” and "Me, My Yoke & I,” which has emotion that almost makes up for the laughably inane lyrics. But when it comes right down to it, there’s nothing particularly special about Damien Rice’s voice. There’s nothing particularly special about his songwriting, either — at least not on this record. You will not find "The Blower’s Daughter, Part II,” but you will also not find much of anything worth mentioning. Damien writes: "I’ve no desire to make any statements… and I’ve no desire to break through styles or modes or anything.” If that’s the case, then 9 sounds like he’s succeeded. (Warner)