The Frames | Burn the Maps (Anti)

burnthemapsThe depression starts with the ironically titled opener “Happy” and doesn’t let up any time soon; of the album’s first five songs, four drag along at a snail’s pace.

The first time I tried to listen to this CD was February 15. The weather was almost freakishly unseasonable: temperatures in the 70s, bright sunshine, and pleasant, spring-like breezes blowing all day. I rolled my windows down, took to the highway, and popped in The Frames’ latest…and I just couldn’t take it. Too slow, too dour, too much at odds with the gorgeous afternoon. The very next day, the temperature dropped 40 degrees, the clouds rolled in, and Burn the Maps grabbed hold and would not let go.

 

Some albums require the real-life environment to reflect the mood of the music. Burn the Maps, The Frames’ sixth studio effort, is definitely one of those albums, a melancholy masterpiece that shines its brightest on the darkest days. On the surface, the album sounds like the Irish band’s take on The Cure’s latest album; the music is built up from layers of shimmering guitars accented with Colm Mac Com Lomaire’s mournful fiddle filling in for Roger O’Donnell’s keyboards. Singer Glen Hansard (best known for his role in the movie The Commitments) has a more low-key, less theatrical voice than Robert Smith, but it is served well by biting lyrics and the band’s rich instrumentation.

 

The depression starts with the ironically titled opener “Happy” and doesn’t let up any time soon; of the album’s first five songs, four drag along at a snail’s pace. Maps takes a huge turn at its halfway point with “Fake” as the drums kick in full steam. The band has been without a regular drummer for the last few years, using a succession of studio musicians to fill in. Surprisingly, this approach actually benefits the album, giving the faster numbers (concentrated in the album’s second half) each a very separate and distinct personality. This mix of the sad with the sublime results in an exquisite album that is the perfect addition to a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day. | Jason Green

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