album reviews

Dolores O'Riordan
Are You Listening?
Sanctuary (2007)

Dolores O'Riordan's airy, haunting vocals were so fundamental to the sound of the Cranberries that any recording featuring her voice sounds reminiscent of that group. Such is the case with "Are You Listening?," her first full solo album since the band's split nearly five years ago. Luckily, though, the album is more than just a nostalgia trip: O'Riordan and her songs are so enchanting that her music feels light and fresh rather than just a retread of the Cranberries' best elements.

The songs here are clearly inspired by the events in her life since her old band's final album, from the birth of her daughter on the enticing, lulling "Ordinary Day" to her love for her husband on "Apple of My Eye," which rises above its overly doting lyrics with a warm, lilting delivery.

But life during O'Riordan's time off was not all butterflies and apple pie: "Black Widow" is a response to her mother-in-law's battle with cancer, and her howling frustration is reminiscent of the passion in the Cranberries' "Zombie." The song begins as a delicate duet between her voice and a staccato piano line, but her fervor intensifies to match a more aggressive rock sound. Though O'Riordan's graceful voice may never truly sound angry, she conveys her fury with a frailty that makes her sorrow all the more heartbreaking.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 6 July 2007, Page WE06
.: Are You Listening? on