Moving on from his status as angst-ridden one-hit wonder, with the long-anticipated release of "9" Damien Rice has established himself as a relatively enduring talent for his generation.
And beyond, probably.
While far less radio-friendly than its predecessor, "9 saunters" with natural grace through ten tracks that ooze characteristic finesse and charm, with added lashings of maturity and jaded sexuality.
It has no "Cannonball" or "Volcano" but it doesn't need one in order to justify itself - without being "catchy", every beat of this album and every careful word sticks in your mind with effortless self-assurance.
It's immediately apparent from the greatly enhanced production values of "9" that the breakout Irish singer/songwriter isn't content with being known as a cult phenom.
He's angling for the big time, and "9"'s string-enhanced romantic melodrama, deftly employing some Dido-esque vocal accompaniment, could be what gets him there.
Equal parts James Blunt and Colin Farrell, Damien plays his sensitive rake game to the hilt here, plaintively crooning about affairs of the heart with swoon-inducing intimacy, but his reluctance to veer from the quiet-loud-quiet structure he favours gives each song a predictable trajectory and ultimately undermines all his attempts to create tension. Still, it's good enough to impress fans of David Gray and Coldplay.
Dashing the low expectations of cynics, Damien Rice's "9" is heart-flipping, gut-gushing, soul-snatching pop at its very best.