The Dublin-based band took the high road, and did it without compromising a thing. Still layered and intense as ever, the Frames can consider the music that makes up “Burn the Maps” a testament to their talent and efforts.
The new album does such an honest job of conveying the Frames at their best that it ensures that if the U.S. is going to love the Frames, they will love everything — the peaks, the valleys and the in-betweens.
The album comes perilously close to being almost too mellow at times, but it only takes a thorough listen to hear the complexity beneath the lulled vocals of Glen Hansard and careful string work of Colm MacConlomaire.
Having recorded and mastered in three different locations could typically be a recipe for disaster, with the pitfalls of overproduction and the old adage of “too many cooks.” Instead, the Frames are wholly involved with the process and keep their finished product sounding top-notch. Their signature dots each track, and ensures that the sound is impeccable.
“Dream Awake,” the first single, is a slowly building masterpiece, closing with crashing drums and a sweeping violin to climax, only to be stopped by the realism of Hansard’s vocals.
“Happy,” the leadoff track, plays out as a stark contrast against itself but without alienating the listener. Careful timing and MacConlomaire’s dramatics with the violin help make it one of the most solid Frame’s songs ever.
“Fake” could be the one misstep, not because it is a bad song but rather it fails to fit in with the mood of the entire album. It is understandable why it was included, however, being both a huge hit in Ireland and seemingly commercially viable in the U.S. It is a sad love song, but you can almost imagine Hansard grinning as he sings the chorus.
The album begins its sloping finish with the tremendous “Suffer in Silence,” the ending of which only teases the listener for more. Sure, it has all the grand swooshes and dreamy guitars of any decent concluding track. But it never raises its own voice, instead allowing the music to drift off, seemingly full of hope. Listeners will leave the same as they came, looking for more of the Frames to devour.
There is a lot riding on “Burn the Maps,” but the best ending is what it is — a CD made for the band by their own tough standards, which ends up being a treat for the listener: fans and first timers alike.