To pass the time at my flower delivery job, I listen to music. For three straight days, Burn the Maps was the only album that I heard. This is that rare work that demands your attention and never disappoints. Each song has been passionately and carefully crafted into a chilling masterpiece, simultaneously original from the rest of the album and delicately entrenched in the overall aura that emanates from Burn the Maps as a complete work.
The Frames' heartfelt and genuinely penned lyrics aren't always exceptional (though they often are) but they explore dark territory without falling into traps of cliche. The words that may not stand alone are propped up by a haunting voice that soars above or whispers softly below a dense background of incredible music. The songwriting is freshly imaginative and never ceased to amaze me. Peppy but poignant guitar pop songs, like "Fake" and "Underglass," stand next to beautiful, more subdued ballads that end with eruptions into awe-inspiring crescendos complete with a fiddle.
The Frames' allure is crystallized on the third track, "Dream Awake." It begins with a lone, eerie guitar that captures the ideas before the words even kick in. The music is the sound inside your head during quiet shock at having experienced monumental and tragic loss. When the words do kick in--"For every time I came home screaming and got sent away, with no warning at all, I had to dream awake ..."--the listener is already relating. The richness of this song captivated me. Not only did I understand what was being said, but I felt it. With the sheer quantity of empty music produced, we often lose sight of why we make and listen to music. We sing our songs to feel. The Frames never fail to remind us of this. (For more about The Frames, check out this week's Noise Feature on page 26.)