GLEN HANSARD/ MARKETA IRGLOVA "Once" Canvasback/Columbia THE FRAMES "The Cost" Anti- AMY LaVERE "Anchors & Anvils" Archer

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are well matched in the movie
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are well matched in the movie "Once" and on its soundtrack. (Ifc First Take Via Associated Press)
Friday, July 20, 2007

GLEN HANSARD/ MARKETA IRGLOVA"Once"Canvasback/ColumbiaTHE FRAMES"The Cost"Anti-AMY LaVERE"Anchors & Anvils"Archer

"ONCE," THE AWARD-WINNING film by John Carney, has produced a soundtrack that may sound familiar even if you haven't been to a movie in years. Certainly fans of the Frames will recognize tunes drawn from the Irish band's albums. But most folks will probably regard the soundtrack as an unexpected delight teaming Frames frontman Glen Hansard with lesser-known Czech Republic-born singer-songwriter Marketa Irglova.

Though the collaboration isn't unprecedented (the music here has strong ties to Hansard's 2006 solo album, "The Swell Season," which featured Irglova), the "Once" soundtrack seems destined to enjoy a long shelf life, and deservedly so. Hansard and Irglova, who also star in the Irish-busker-meets-girl tale, complement each other throughout, beginning with the opening track, "Falling Slowly," where his gritty vocal is softly shaded by her angelic soprano. An old hand at bringing ballads to a dramatic pitch, Hansard composed most of the songs on the soundtrack, so it's not surprising that they generate waves of Celtic soul. But Irglova, who plays keyboards, more than holds her own, especially on "If You Want Me," a self-penned, dreamy blues song that ranks among the album's biggest treats.

If "Once" leads listeners to "The Cost," the latest Frames CD, it won't be an accident. The albums have a lot in common, including performances of Hansard's defiant "When Your Mind's Made Up." "Once," however, emphasizes acoustic intimacy, while "The Cost" leans heavily on atmospheric electric guitar textures and Colm Mac Con Iomaire's soaring fiddle. As always, Hansard and his bandmates use abrupt shifts in dynamics to powerful effect -- check out "Falling Slowly" -- while exploring a wide range of emotions with fervor. Even so, "The Cost" has its somber allures, such as "Sad Songs," a languid ballad that concerns the futility of venting.

Singer-songwriter Amy LaVere has a promising film career; she recently appeared in "Black Snake Moan." But she might have to carve out more time on the road if her new CD, "Anchors & Anvils," gets the exposure it deserves. Produced by Memphis maestro Jim Dickinson, the album generates a fearless energy, as LaVere freely draws on country, pop, blues and jazz traditions with shrewd assurance. What she lacks in vocal power, she makes up with seductive charm, a propulsive upright bass and a gift for noirish storytelling that's impossible to overlook on "Killing Him" and other tracks.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Thursday at the 9:30 club.

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