Plateau Records – 2001 – 52 minutes

The Frames have come of age. 'For The Birds', the fourth album in their catalogue of hits and near misses brims over with tunes of tenderness and humanity. From the Will Oldham-esque 'Lay Me Down' to the yearning of 'Disappointed', the album is proof of an epic leap forward from an always intriguing band. Released on their own Plateau Records and recorded with Steve Albini and ex-dEUS man Craig Ward, this is the album The Frames have been trying to make for a long time.

One of several high points is the heartbreakingly gorgeous 'What Happens When the Heart Just Stops'. A gently swelling melody emerges complete with trumpet crescendo as Hansard weaves in a reference to the later 'Disappointed'. Bookended by the similarly tender and beautiful 'Lay Me Down' and 'Headlong', this fine trilogy segues into the jangly, uplifting 'Fighting On the Stairs'. Hansard seems to have forsaken anger for compassion, his lyrics have a new depth and resonance that he has only touched on in the past.

The contribution of the rest of the band cannot be underestimated particularly the melancholic elegance of Colm Mac Con Iomaire's violin playing and Dave Hingerty's understated, yet atmospheric drums. With influences ranging through Mercury Rev, Sigur Rós, Songs: Ohia and The Dirty Three, 'For The Birds' is nothing short of stunning. This is an album that will quietly insinuate itself into your life and refuse to let go of your heart. Can you resist?

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: In the Deep Shade - Lay Me Down - What Happens When the Heart Just Stops - Headlong - Fighting On The Stairs - Giving Me Wings - Early Bird - Friends and Foe - Santa Maria - Disappointed - Mighty Sword