While I was very apprehensive of the music industry’s decision to begin releasing new music on Friday instead of Tuesday, as it has been written since the dawn of time, I was given a nice treat this morning to ease the stress of the change: the new compilation album of sorts from my favorite band ever, The Frames, was released digitally. And let me tell you, I could not be more thrilled.
Longitude is the quintessential Frames album—featuring just twelve tracks and only one that is brand new, it’s a sort of introduction to the band’s greatest hits without necessarily being a greatest hits album. In fact, let me let Glen Hansard explain it, as he included on the band’s official website:
“This is a collection of songs from throughout the twenty five years we’ve been a band. We initially wanted to mark this anniversary with a sort of ‘Best of The Frames’. We put together a few different versions, including a certain number of songs from each record and including more popular live and radio songs – but this felt forced and incongruous. After many conversations amongst ourselves we decided it should simply be a collection of our favourite tunes, songs we would be happy to put on a mix-tape for a friend. So, here it is, with no regard to what album is most or least represented. It’s a short collection of tunes we are proud of, some in slightly different versions from the original recordings, and one new song. This is not the sum of our career but maybe some of the songs where we felt we had broken through to a new place or gotten better as a band. We hope you like it….we hope you enjoy it.”
Whether the songs are re-recorded or not doesn’t matter as you start up the album and dive right in to the opening “God Bless Mom,” everything sounds new, clean, and fresh put together in this collection. By no coincidence most of the songs on the album include my favorites, but there are a few that I usually overlooked during my previous listens to their albums: “Seven Day Mile,” “Happy,” and “Ship Caught in the Bay” are given new life among well worn tracks like “Star Star” and “Lay Me Down,” in spite of the fact that the overall track listing feels a bit off at first listen.
As someone who is no stranger to seeing The Frames live alongside frontman Glen Hansard (to date, I have still never seen a proper gig with The Frames getting top billing) I am used to hearing certain songs in a certain order, and in general tracks that were in the first half of the album seemed like they should be more at home toward the end…but once I was done listening, I understood why they positioned each song where they did. And after all, this is The Frames putting together a mix-tape for me, as Glen put it, and I am happy to enjoy it the way they intended.
The real jewels of this album are three new recordings that really epitomize the experience of listening to The Frames, starting with the new version of “Revelate,” which at first listen sounds cleaner and more in tune with the latest versions of the song that I’ve heard live (even though it lacks the occasional laughter I’ve seen from Glen during the line about “my lucky charms,”). It’s exactly what I would expect from the track and does an amazing job of highlighting every player in the multi-piece band: you can hear every chord, every note, every instrument all in perfect harmony.
“Revelate” is followed by a new recording of my favorite song of all time, bar none, “Fitzcarraldo.” I have heard every version of “Fitzcarraldo” that there is, I have openly sobbed while hearing it live, I have tracked down recordings on YouTube, and if there was ever an expert on this song, it would be me. (Or, I guess, the guys in The Frames, but hear me out here.) My first impression of this version was that it was different in a way I couldn’t necessarily peg right off the bat. The song seems to come in breaths, with new notes at play alongside the familiar melody, and the thing that I noticed first and foremost was that it seemed to more than any other studio recording capture that lilting feel of rocking back and forth at sea. While Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s violin part on this song is what drew me in in the first place, however, it is in my expert opinion that the very best performances of this song are the ones where Colm’s violin is not overpowering, but where it is lifted up by Rob Bochnik’s guitar accompaniment, and this recording captures that perfectly.
Last but not least, the first new song from The Frames Proper that we’ve heard in awhile, “None But I,” is the perfect epilogue to the album and, perhaps, to The Frames as we know them. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to believe that we will have dozens more albums, dozens more songs, dozens more tours, but this album in its entirety felt something like a punctuation mark on the band’s career. “None But I” capitalizes on this by building up with poetic, biblical lyrics that ask “who knew before we started how this would all play out? / Who took the sense of reason from our mouths?” and bring us to a musical and lyrical ownership of success, of failure, and of life in general. “None But I” reminds us that we are in control, but also that even if something seems as if it is over, we have the power to take things in our own hands and create a new chapter.
The Frames are celebrating their 25th anniversary this month with several Irish concerts, and afterward we know that Glen Hansard is preparing to release his second solo album supported by an intimate tour. Colm Mac Con Iomaire has also recently released a beautiful instrumental album, too, that fans of his work certainly will want to pick up. I don’t know what the future of The Frames will hold, but I do know that the punctuation mark we’ve been given is exactly that: it leads us on to the next sentence, or the next chapter, and regardless of where we are headed Longitude is the perfect summation of this 25 year chapter of The Frames career.
Whether you are a new fan of The Frames, have never heard of them before, or have every song memorized, this album will be a treat for you. It is the band’s mix tape for us, and I think you’ll like what you hear. You can listen to the album on Spotify right now, pick up a copy on iTunes or Amazon, or if you aren’t in Ireland (where it’s already been released) you can grab a physical copy when they are released on July 31, 2015…a Friday, lest we forget.