Dolores O’Riordan, returns to the music scene after a long hiatus with a sublime solo offering, “Are You Listening?” The Irish songstress is the formerly lead singer of Irish rock band “The Cranberries” which remains fresh in public memory for their early ‘90s hits “Zombie”, “Dreams” and “Linger”,
Written over a period of four years, the album does full justice to the long wait. Comprising a selection of 12 songs from a bucket of 30, written and composed by Dolores as “therapy” between her homes in Canada, Dublin and Ireland, the effort is undoubtedly her best since the mid-90s.
The album opens with slow rocker and lead single, “Ordinary Day” which is an ode to the birth of her daughter, Dakota Rain. Though soft, mellow and radio-friendly, this pop track is surprisingly amongst the weakest on the album and may fail to impress but is deceptive of what lies ahead. The second single, “When We Were Young” powered with brilliant rock music and evocative lyrics appears to be a confession of the hardships faced by Dolores while touring with her band which restricted her interactions with her family. The track is distinctly the best on the album with its alternating acoustic and electric guitars and layered vocals; and is ascending European charts at present.
Old school rock gives way to synthesized drum beats and an Irish whistle in “Human Spirit”, a reflection of the intricacies of human nature and the vitality of timely introspection; to be followed by the ballad “Apple Of My Eye” which is a tribute from Dolores to her husband (“Remember the face of you/Surrender to the touch of you”), one that we can dedicate to our near and dear ones and with which we may commemorate the faithful departed. One of the sombre tracks on the album with an eerie snare and ghosting piano notes, “Black Widow” is inspired by the death of the artist’s mother-in-law and her battle with cancer that Dolores describes like an animal “starting on the inside and eating its way to the surface.” From the exploding guitars and distressing repetitive lyrics of “Stay With Me” to the aggression and invigoration of “Loser” the album is a journey of varying emotions that defy its classification into one single theme or genre. A long anticipated treat comes in the form of “October” hailed by fans for its fuelled vocals, cherished Irish yodels and cryptic words that leaves the listener opining on their import.
True to her catholic nature is “Angel Fire”, a prayer with a soulful chorus (“Take me higher/Angel Fire/Take me where I want to go/Teach me things I need to know”) and snaring electric guitars that form a remarkable brace. The album concludes with “Ecstasy”, Dolores’s plea against drug-abuse, possibly from her own experiments; and is reminiscent of the socio-political crusades of her earlier works (“Salvation”, “Zombie”, “War Child”) of the mid-90s with “The Cranberries”.
Co-produced by acclaimed producer/musician “Youth” (U2, Paul McCartney) and “Dan Broadbeck”, “Are You Listening?” is a musical pilgrimage with something in it for everybody, arising out of a potpourri of emotions and a battalion of melodies.
Are you listening? You’d have to be foolish not to.