Plateau - 2004 - 56 minutes

There's a lot riding on 'Burn the Maps', The Frames' first studio album in three years. 2001's 'For the Birds' was released on their own Plateau label and started the regeneration of a band who had suffered more than most from the slings and arrows of outrageous record company fortune.

Now, 15-years-old, fresh from headlining Marlay Park and after signing a deal with prestigious Californian label Anti, they're a band finally coming into their prime. In The Frames' case, what has not broken them has truly made them stronger and their new line-up - no more Dave Hingerty on drums and the replacement of guitarist Dave Odlum by former Electrical Audio Studios recording engineer Rob Bochnik - are a tight and talented unit.

But is 'Burn the Maps' up to the weight of expectation? The answer, it has to be said, is a resounding yes. Despite a resolutely downbeat mood permeating the album, it's still an uplifting listen, mainly due to violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire. Mac Con Iomaire's strings have always lifted The Frames up and here they play centre stage, particularly on songs like 'Dream Awake', 'Keepsake' and stunning but misnamed opener 'Happy'.

After going the Steve Albini route of bare-bones live recording on 'For the Birds', 'Burn the Maps' has a richer texture and more lush production. Like 'Santa Maria' on that album, many of the tracks here have quiet, simple starts that gradually build complexity and volume. 'Finally' lifts, dips and lifts for frontman Glen Hansard to raggedly scream his way to the end while there's a nod to Mercury Rev's epic soundscapes on 'A Caution to the Birds'. Bassist Joe Doyle shares vocal duties on final track, the downtempo and acoustic 'Locusts'. It's a bittersweet ending that will leave you wanting to play the album all over again. The Frames - here to stay.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: Happy - Finally - Dream Awake - A Caution To The Birds - Trying - Fake - Sideways Down - Underglass - Ship Caught In The Bay - Keepsake - Suffer In Silence - Locusts