The Frames | The Cost (Anti-)

cd_framesThe more I listen to The Cost, the more I have realized this: My life is the Frames, at times spiraling wildly, deliciously, passionately out of control, only to be reigned back in and tamed.

 

 

 

 

On the heels of their last two releases, the live Set List and the symphonic, studio-accented Burn the Maps, Irish export the Frames have returned with The Cost. And while The Cost is 100% Frames and fully satisfying, it's also a stripped-down, live-in-the-studio affair that's more organic than what we've been fed lately. Whereas Burn the Maps was an instant grabber, pulling in the listener and engaging him from the get-go; The Cost is more of a creeper, a quieter affair that takes a few listens but that, ultimately, results in a more intimate understanding and appreciation of the band and its myriad talents.

The disc opens with "Song for Someone," at first just Hansard's voice backed by a simple, quietly strung acoustic guitar. It's one of the album's quieter numbers, perhaps an odd choice for a lead-in track—but perhaps not. On the refrain, Hansard's voice swells as he begs, "And if we're all for someone/ And if we're born for someone/ When will she come, that someone?" The song builds to a cacophony of sound, words and guitars layered onto one another to provide a glorious close.

"I don't know you/ but I want you/ all the more for that," sings Hansard to begin "Falling Slowly," an example of his understated brilliance. Lyrically, The Cost sees him embracing his human-ness, his desires and imperfections and (yes, still) aspirations. It's refreshingly frank, a glimpse into one of today's truly great songwriting minds.

This is not to shortchange the band's contributions in the slightest; musically, they match Hansard's voice and words with just the right amount of heartache or beauty or noise—sometimes all at once. Colm Mac Con Iomaire (violin), Joseph Doyle (guitar), Rob Bochnik (bass), and Johnny Boyle (drums) are the unsung heroes, contributing to and expanding on Hansard's vision.

"People Get Ready," long a staple of the band's live show, is anthemic, uplifting, inspiring. "And we have all the time in the world/ to get it right, to get it right," sings charismatic frontman Glen Hansard. "And we have all the love in the world/ to set alight, to set alight./ Just look up." Despite this one's immediacy and attraction, "Rise" has to be the highlight of a highlight-filled disc. A slow-burner, to be sure, "Rise" finds Hansard asserting, "Surely it's a sign now/ Everything's in tune to some kind of higher power." Higher power, indeed; how else to explain the mastery herein? After the second proclamation of "Together we will rise," the violin kicks in, the guitars and drums swell, and Hansard howls to be heard over the dissonance.

A precisely plucked piano raises the tempo of "When Your Mind's Made Up," another of the album's more boisterous numbers. The bridge of the song once again finds all the parts expanding and competing to be heard; the sound builds a level, and then another, and another—and then, suddenly, rightly, coming back down for a gentle close. The title track smolders from start to finish; fuzzed-out guitars drone as Hansard concludes, "Love has been the cause/ of all our suffering." The flames lick higher, higher, before he asks, "Will we let it burn/ burn us down?"

Lyrically, "True" is reminiscent of fellow Irishman Damien Rice and "9 Crimes" from his latest masterpiece, 9. The lure of infidelity is laid bare as, over sparse strings and guitar accompaniment, Hansard reveals, "I find it so hard to be true/ and all the secrets I keep from you/ are like a blackness in my heart/ that only tears us both apart."

Following the upswelling "The Side You Never Get to See" in which Hansard offers to show a side of himself heretofore unrevealed, the Frames close the disc with the quiet, damaged, yet optimistic "Bad Bone." Hansard sings quietly over an even quieter acoustic guitar: "When I met you, you were bitter still/ from a scar you're never gonna show/ and I was cursed with a jealously/ that's killed every love I've ever known." Instruments are introduced and further cracks revealed, but just when it seems our charmingly broken narrator is doomed to live alone, we are offered a taste of hope: "And all my thoughts of going clear/ and getting out before my time/ have died with you upon the vine/ have died with you upon the vine/ to die with you upon the vine/ to die with you/ so if you'll lead the way."

The more I listen to The Cost, the more I have realized this: My life is the Frames, at times spiraling wildly, deliciously, passionately out of control, only to be reigned back in and tamed.

And really, isn't that the only way to live? Throwing caution to the wind, embracing all that is beautiful and exhilarating and exciting and passionate, always coming back to a place of beauty and peace. Listen fully, my friends. A+ | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: Damien Rice, Catherine Wheel

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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