After U2, Ireland's most beloved band could well be the Frames, a brooding bunch of Dubliners who specialize in overwrought, overly earnest, arena-sized indie pop that straddles the fence between poignant and monotonous. Far less popular stateside (though frontman Glen Hansard co-starred in Alan Parker's soul-reviving romp, The Commitments, in 1991), the Frames have been courting melancholy steadily for fifteen years, earning platinum status in Galway and a rabid following in the Czech Republic. After countless lineup changes and a few label shifts, the current five-piece recently found a home at Epitaph's signature imprint, Anti-, and released its first studio effort in four years: Burn the Maps. With trademark string-laden dreariness, the album features intensely private songs that delve into love, death, faithlessness and revelation. It also relies on formulaic, soft-loud dynamics, recalling the Pixies during the best of times, a watered-down 3.2 version of the vastly overrated Coldplay at the worst of times. In other words, it ain't half bad.
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