Glen Hansard, in an interview back in 2002, once said, “The sleeve artwork for each album was intended to reflect a journey”. The album cover of Longitude, the newest, or not so new album, by The Frames gives us lens through which to enter the collection of songs compiled to commemorate their 25th anniversary. The title itself is a word used to describe the distance, in degrees or in time, away from an imaginary line; while the cover art displays a dreary lone crag of the Alps, in clarity of a textured vignette. The collision of these two references is explored throughout, but most palpably in their new song.
The album, according to Glen, is a smattering of their favorite tunes over the years, the ones that epitomize an improvement or a breakthrough, those they would be proud to share with friends. Undoubtedly, there will always be favorites missing in a petite twelve-song selection from their vast six-album repertoire. The spirit of resisting the pressure to make an album of radio hits is apropos for the band, which has always eschewed the imposition of industry expectation (finally finding a comfortable home with the label ANTI- , whose motto is “Real artists creating records on their own terms”). Yet, in spite of the immense challenge, the album feels authentically Frames-ian with each song, individually and strung together, a refreshingly consistent reflection of the band.
There are songs that seem to overflow with gratitude and an celebration of life that often underlies such as “God Bless Mom” and “People Get Ready”, those like “Lay Me Down” that are forever intertwined with a whimsically typical Glen story oft told at performances and captured on their live album Set List, those that represented a more experimental evolution in their sound like “Happy” and “Ship Caught in The Bay”, those that whisper and breathe tenderness like the passing of a gentle breeze such as “In the Deep Shade” and “Star Star”, and those like “The Cost” that sear themselves in your brain out of the awe-inspiring ability of Glen’s voice to communicate a pain so deep it can only burst forth in sounds.
While predominantly formed by pooling together old tunes, the album takes a turn for the unique by featuring two re-recorded versions of “Revelate” and Fitzcarraldo”, as well as entirely new song “None But I”. Both “Revelate” and “Fitzcarraldo” sound like their predecessors, but carry with them the effects of time and experience. The originals have a youthful verve, but are more metered, subdued somehow. The two songs on Longitude are without the additional backing of Noreen O’Donnell, but are pared down to their most essential form; there is a confidence in them, an assurance, and a skill that has only matured.
“None But I” is the biggest departure from their older material, closer in its calm and tender spirit to music released by The Swell Season (the band formed under the helm of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) than The Frames. The Frames have fought long and hard, whether it meant changing labels multiple times in their career or withstanding the roller-coaster of the world wide success of the movie Once and the subsequent musical sub-journeys it brought about.
Lasting for 25 years as a band is like climbing a treacherous mountain height, like that of the Alps. Not all can withstand the environmental forces or learn how to trust and depend on their fellow climbers, but The Frames have successfully maneuvered any such difficulties. “None But I” reveals the ways in which they have been irrevocably changed by the climb they undertook, at least in manner of degrees. Just as longitude is measured in relation to an imaginary line, The Frames have not changed so much as grown and absorbed the last 25 years into a different, but full version of themselves that still rings true.
Written by Nina Leonard
OurVinyl | Contributor