Picks and Pans Review: O

updated 08/11/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/11/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Damien Rice (Vector)

Damien Rice's debut may be the most depressing album you'll hear all year. "Life taught me to die," wails the Irish singer-songwriter in his aching, emotionally raw voice on "Cannonball," which will blow just about anybody's good mood to smithereens. While many of these alt-folk tunes have a mournful, almost dirgelike quality, on closer inspection they reveal a rich, elegant beauty highlighted by Rice's delicate acoustic guitar, Lisa Hannigan's ethereal supporting vocals and Vyvienne Long's evocative cello. The disc peaks midway through with the haunting, string-swept "Amie," on which Rice begs a girl to read him the classic erotic novel The Story of O.

BOTTOM LINE: Savory Rice

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