There’s usually something so reassuringly comforting in hearing a new album by Nebraskan singer songwriter Josh Rouse.
The songs are often packed full of melody and heart. Sometimes they even seem to speak direct to the listener.
For my own move from urban to rural life around a decade ago Rouse was there for me with Nice To Fit In on Country Mouse City House, which focused of his own move to Europe and sense of identity.
Every Josh Rouse fan will have their own song, where he was there for them with just the right lyric and tone.
All of that heart is still evident on Love In the Modern Age, but Rouse’s switch from acoustic guitar folk-pop to synths and delay effect guitar is still taking a while to sink in, even after a good few weeks of listening.
In short – Josh Rouse has gone a bit 1980s and I’m not sure I like it.
Sometimes this new direction works, as on Ordinary People, Ordinary Lives, where his voice and lyrics are given the chance to shine.
Other times it jars too much, with the melody lost in the 1980s production.
The sexy saxes on the title track just sound too un-Rouse to be credible for me. This track also has some truly awful lyrics, such as the repeated line “this one’s for the lovers” and worst of all it features some Cher-esque vocoder. Shudder.
Businessman fares little better with some heavy synth chords and cowbells making it sound like a Spandau Ballet B-side.
It’s not until around the half way point with Women and the Wind where the album comes to life. It goes lighter on the synths, the focus is on the voice and it has the catchiest melody on the album. This is beautiful pop.
Hugs and Kisses too is another high point, the electronica is used just right – to compliment the main attraction – Rouse and his lovely voice.
This album is certainly not among the best of Rouse’s output, with only really one or two songs that linger in the head.
But having said that his desire to do things a little different – to focus on a different sound – has to be applauded even if it doesn’t always work.
by Joe Lepper
For more information about Josh Rouse visit his website here.