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Burn the Maps

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Album Review

The Frames have been fighting it out for 15 years, issuing albums that explode in the Czech Republic and nowhere else, go platinum in Galway but can't get noticed in the U.S.A. They should finally get their due with Burn the Maps. It's the determined Irish combo's first studio effort for Anti-, the Epitaph signature label that showcases such disparate and discerning acts as Joe Henry, the Locust, and Jolie Holland, and Glen Hansard and the lads fit in there just fine — Anti-'s an oddly shaped place, but it offers artists room to move. The same applies to the Frames' music, which on Maps swings from the barbed, railing guitar rage of the Pixies nod "Underglass" to songs where a whispering, almost self-conscious Hansard stands next to roaring chorus set pieces that bring the band's full complement of guitars and sweeping fiddle to the table. In "Fake" he delivers the bitter central question — "Come on the guy's a fake/What do you love him for?" — as both a scream and a plea, while "Happy" makes incredible use of studio mixing to put the vocals in one ear, lingering harmonies in the other, and layers of acoustic guitar, swelling strings, and even a little electric squelch under the whole bit. That's the opener, and it brings listeners into the Frames' world of raw elegance. "Ship Caught in the Bay" starts with gentle percussion and a faraway melodic lilt, but drops in stuttering treated percussion near the three-minute mark for an atmospheric effect not unlike what the Doves do so well. It's also a bridge to Burn the Maps' final portion, three lengthy tracks that essay the Dirty Three's epic sway, build from aching acoustic guitar into a sort of comforting love song ("Wake up/It's your love calling," goes "Suffer in Silence"), and drift away on swirling fiddle and tinkling piano. Sometimes it seems like the Frames are holding back on Maps. The single "Finally" is one of the record's most deliberate moments, but it could have let Colm Mac Con Lomaire's fiddle hit a little harder. And though "Dream Awake"'s slow build is standard operating procedure for the band, it doesn't really climax as much as it plateaus. These minor missteps, however, don't lessen the album's gravity. Burn the Maps is an elemental journey that tugs at the heart and sticks around in the mind — just as the Frames have been doing for years.


Formed: 1990 in Dublin, Ireland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Frames are led by Glen Hansard, a Dublin-based singer/songwriter who quit school at age 13 to begin busking on local streets. By 17, he'd borrowed enough money from his parents to record a demo, 50 copies of which were pressed and distributed to family and friends. One of those copies made its way to Island Records' Denny Cordell, who successfully lobbied label founder Chris Blackwell to sign Hansard to the roster. Now signed to a major label, Hansard founded the Frames, taking the name from...
Full Bio
Burn the Maps, The Frames
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