It’s strange when beautifully written, well-performed, and generally fucking amazing minimalist folk albums cause skisms. I’m met people that cherish this album with the same revel as I do. And then there are motherfuckers out there that hate this album with a deep distain like it somehow ended up killing their dog. Like, what’s up buttercup? Why are you so angry at acoustic guitar? Who hurt you? Pitchfork gave this album a 5.3 out of 10 and said shit like, “The big, inescapable problem with O is that, aside from being derivative, Rice’s songwriting is also unbearably repetitive” and “Rice is a capable guitar player, although his Dave Matthews-via-David Gray pluck-and-strum can be awfully exhausting.”
I can understand if someone doesn’t like the child-like singing of Johanna Newson on Milk-Eyed Mender, that’s a preference thing. But I’m always surprised when people have a hate on for Damien. Even the story behind the album fits the sound so well. Check it: Man is going through an existential crisis after being in a somewhat successful rock band because he finds, no matter how much success he has, that he’s still unhappy. He quits the band and goes busking through Italy. When he gets back home, he sets up a home studio and slowly crafts out a folk album that he feels is honest with who he is. During the recording, a beautiful background singer walks with an extraordinary and unique voice. They fall in love. Sure, the story is cheesy. Hell, it might be cheesier than that one cheesestick Rom Com dream I had. “Why can’t we be together,” Brie says full of tears, “I still love you.” Monterey Jack takes Brie by the shoulders and says, “We’re just too different, you and I! Now, get on that platter, fly away, and never look back.” Even the songs on this album are over sentimental, sappy, and over the top. Yet, isn’t that what love fucking is? Who are these robot people that never felt their heart jump before? Who are these lucky few that have never had their heart broken?
This album is honest from start to finish. That’s what makes it so unique. These songs weren’t crafted in sterile tubes in a songwriting lab. You can literally hear an inspired songwriter and a beautiful singer fall in love in these recordings. Unfortunately, shit didn’t work out for Damien and Lisa. Ten years later Damien would say, after all his profound success, “I’d give it all away to still have Lisa in my life.” Two lovers, falling in love, are singing songs about heartbreak. As you listen through the album, you know that this time capsule of a moment won’t last. But, fuck me, if it doesn’t make that moment that much sweeter.