Tag Archive | "Josh Rouse"

Josh Rouse – Love in the Modern Age

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Josh Rouse – Love in the Modern Age

Posted on 19 April 2018 by Joe

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.

Josh-Rouse

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.

6/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about Josh Rouse visit his website here.

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Josh Rouse – The Happiness Waltz

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Josh Rouse – The Happiness Waltz

Posted on 03 April 2013 by Joe

Josh Rouse is dancing into middle age nicely with his tenth album The Happiness Waltz. Like some of his early to middle period albums, in particular 1972 (named after the year of his birth), this latest album is full of sunny melodies, country twangs, radio friendly hooks and some gorgeous singing.

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There was a point around five years ago when it looked like Rouse was to settle into middle age in a less productive fashion. After a prolific run of five albums between 2002’s Under Cold Blue Stars and 2007’s Country Mouse City House he took a break from album releases for three years to release some of his earlier work under the Bedroom Classics name. El Turista in 2010 marked his album release return, followed by Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations the next year, but Happiness Waltz feels much more like a return to form than either of those.

His decision to go back to his most popular era of the early to mid 2000s in terms of production is a smart move and it is no surprise that he’s drafted in arguably his best producer for the task, Brad Jones, who was behind the desk on 1972 a well as 2005’s Nashville.

Recorded in Nebraska born Rouse’s home in  Valencia, Spain, its mixing was completed in Nashville, which also helps give the album that mid 70s FM glow that made Rouse’s mid 2000s sound so popular and sonically pleasing.

Opener Julie (Come Out of the Rain) takes the listener straight back to the Rouse of old, with its infectious chorus and slide guitar, as does the simple guitar picking of Simple Pleasure. As the album progresses it is striking what a good writer of pop songs Rouse is, with the Carole King-esque City People City Things among the best examples.

By the time the album closes with the piano driven, Simon and Garfunkel-like  title track I wonder why it is that Rouse hasn’t released a single since 2005. Perhaps as his audience grows older with him they are less inclined to go for one track and instead prefer to settle back in their garden and listen to the reassuringly familiarity of a consistently summery album from a dear friend, which is what Rouse seems like for those fans who’ve stuck with him all these years.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Denison Witmer – The Ones Who Wait

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Denison Witmer – The Ones Who Wait

Posted on 18 May 2012 by Joe

I’m going to confess that despite his fifteen year career in music,  I only discovered Asthmatic Kitty artist Denison Witmer last month when his ninth and latest CD The Ones Who Wait landed on my doormat.

Listening to the album I can see why he has been the anonymous bridesmaid but never the bride for so long. He can clearly sing well, has a keen sense of melody, just the right blend of instruments and mixing and writes considered lyrics. The problem is there are a hundred thousand  quite good versions of Witmer out there. On this evidence he will continue to struggle to  walk down the aisle of fame.

Part of the problem is that he is far too similar to Josh Rouse. I like Josh Rouse, but I’m not sure I want to listen to another one, I’m quite happy with the original.

His lack of originality does not however make this a bad album. On the contrary it’s a pleasing listen. It’s just none of the tracks or lyrics have stayed with me after several listens, which for me is a key requirement of any singer songwriters’ output.

There’s a nice west coast 70s feel in places, some nice banjo (Influence) and trumpet arrangements (Every Passing Day), but with each track I’ve thought, ‘ooh, I really fancy listening to a bit of Josh Rouse now’.

I feel a  little bad for penning this review especially as Denison is clearly highly accomplished and the subject matter of much of the album, about the death of his father from cancer and his own  fatherhood are weighty and worthy subjects.

As a reviewer though I accept that I may over time change my mind about this album. I did with Asthmatic Kitty’s Sufjan Steven’s most recent album Age of Adz, which grew on me over time. I will keep coming back to this as it is by no means a bad album, it just doesn’t have that same sparkle as many other singer songwriters CDs that drop on my doormat.

6/10

by Joe Lepper

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Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations

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Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations

Posted on 08 October 2011 by Dorian

Josh Rouse is one of those artists that really should be a household name. Between 1998 and 2005 he relased five (six if you count his collaboration with Kurt Wagner on 1999’s Chester) brilliant albums including Under Cold Blue Stars, which made our top 100 albums chart. The last three of these albums (Under Cold Blue Stars, 1972 and Nashville) all deserved to be  hit albums, well written beautifully played and genuinely commercial (in a good way).

They weren’t smash hit albums and he remained a cult concern playing excellent medium sized gigs to his adoring fanbase. He moved to Spain in 2006 and has spent the last five years releasing laid back albums that reflect the mood of an American in Espana. These albums have all been good, with the odd brilliant track, but haven’t quite managed to hit the heights of his earlier work. His latest album, released on his Bedroom Classics label, introduces his new band, The Long Vacations.

Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations cover

From the start, with the opening track ‘Diggin’ in The sand’, it is clear that Rouse is continuing with the more relaxed Spanish influenced sound that has informed his last few albums. The synthesis of Spanish playing styles and American musical influences (and English as well, The Kinks influenced languid Summer pop of ‘Lazy Days’) works brilliantly now Rouse has had several years to perfect it.

Lyrically things are much simpler than they were on Rouse’s American based albums, and I must admit that I miss the emotional impact of ‘Late Night Conversation’ and ‘Sad Eyes’. However, one of Rouse’s strengths is that his music has always seemed honest and real, and what we hear on this album is the honest reflection of his current mental and musical state of mind. That doesn’t mean that the music is throwaway, there is a melancholic mood on several songs, even the bossanova groove and spirited playing of ‘Fine Fine’ seems to mask a sadness.

Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations

At only nine songs in length this is a compact and focussed recording, which means that it is his most consistently enjoyable album for years and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. It may not hit the heights of his best work but there isn’t a bad song on the album and a few stand out as worthy additions to any future compilations. ‘To The Clock, To the City’ has a beautiful melody that sinks claws into your brain and ‘Oh, Look What the Sun Did!’ might have been a surprise hit if it had been released some three months earlier.

The album is superbly produced and arranged, presumably by Rouse himself, and has such a lush relaxed feel that perfectly suits the songs and Rouse’s smooth understated vocals. A lot of credit also goes to his new band mates, Xema Fuertes and Cayo Bellveser, who (along with a handful of guests) play the songs with skill and subtlety.

Also worth noting is that the CD cover is beautifully designed, probably my favourite packaging of any album so far this year. The Saul Bass influenced front cover perfectly sums up the mood and feel of the album, and the back cover has the classic look of vintage LP covers from the early 1960s.

Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations finds a great artist in fine voice seeming happy, relaxed and producing his best album in years.

8/10

By Dorian Rogers

 

 

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Top 100 Albums (80 – 71)

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Top 100 Albums (80 – 71)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Dorian

Everyone has their own Top 100 Albums list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. There are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities with the aim of highlighting some different music for you to seek out.

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. We hope you enjoy this third instalment. Here’s our previous instalments (90 -81 , 100-91).  See you next week for 70-61.

Also, for  more great albums visit our  Classic Albums section

80. Midlake – Trials Of Van Occupanther


No this is not from the 1970s, but this 2006 release from American folk rock act Midlake is as near as you will get to that era of flares as it beautifully recreates the classic American rock production of Fleetwood Mac and Crosby Stills and Nash.  The effect is that tracks such as Roscoe and Bandits already sound like 30 year old masterpieces. Lyrically the influences go even further back, evoking images of the old west, log cabins, woods and pioneering. This is powerful decade skipping stuff with some sumptuous melodies. Midlake didn’t quite reach the same heights with their follow up album, The Courage of Others, proving just how special this album is.

79. Josh Rouse – Under Cold Blue Stars

Under Cold Blue Stars

Josh Rouse initially came to our attention through his collaboration with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner on the Chester EP. One trip to see him play in a small room above a Brighton pub and we were hooked. His first five albums are all essential listens, but Under Cold Blue Stars remains our favourite and should have been the album that broke him from a cult act to bigger things. The album looks at some of the darker areas of a relationship, focusing on a mid-western 1950s couple, but softens the blow with some of the sweeter, more tender moments. It is a beautifully warm album, excellently produced by Roger Mountenot, that demonstrated what an ambitious songwriter Rouse had become. On top of this it features some great pop tunes, especially ‘Nothing Gives Me Pleasure’ and ‘Feeling No Pain’ which demonstrate that his influences lie just as much in UK acts of the 1980s (especially The Cure and The Smiths) as the traditional American acts he had become associated with.

78. Mclusky – Do Dallas


Mclusky from Cardiff were among the angriest  and funniest bands around during their short career straddling the millennium.   With  Steve Albini as producer their relentless energy and humour never sounded better as on their 2002 second album Do Dallas.  Has there ever been a better opening song title as ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’? The music industry itself was a popular target of the band especially on standouts such as ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’,  ‘Collagen Rock’  and ‘Fuck this band’.  They split in 2005 and singer Andy “Falco” Falkous and drummer Jack Egglestone currently plough a slightly more serious furrow with Future Of The Left.

77. Cat Power  – You Are Free

You Are Free

Cat Power’s hushed fragile, yet powerful voice would reach a bigger audience on The Greatest in 2006 but this 2003 release is the best example of her songwriting, whilst retaining some of the edginess of her earlier recordings. Cat Power (real name Chan Marshal) plays most of what we hear here but a diverse group of musicians including Warren Ellis, Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder contribute to some of the tracks. The sparse piano lead ‘I Don’t Blame You’ sets the tone for the album but fuller sounding songs such as ‘He War’ mean that it never sounds one paced or lacking in variation. It isn’t always an easy listen, break-ups and child abuse are some of the lyrical matter, but it is certainly an enriching experience and Marshal’s voice is one of the loveliest things on record.

76. Pylon – Gyrate


“We’re not the best rock ‘n’ roll band in America,” Pylon deserve that accolade, said REM drummer Bill Berry in 1987. Formed in REM’s hometown of Athens Georgia in 1979 they were helped along the way by another of that college town’s bands The B-52s to create frenetic, danceable new wave music that was wholly unique. Singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s raw and emotional vocals, backed with a sparse Gang of Four influenced rhythm section is expertly captured on this their debut album, with highlights including opener ‘Volume’ and final track ‘Stop It’. All bands should aspire to be this original. Berry certainly knew what he was talking about.

75. Field Music – Measure

Measure

Field Music’s Measure has the distinction of being the most modern album in our top 100, it was also the number 1 album in our 2010 round-up. Field Music, brothers Peter and David Brewis, recorded Measure after a hiatus where they focused on solo projects as The Week That Was and School Of Language. In an age where most people consume songs track by track it is a brave move to release a double album, but the quality of songs is so good here that it demands to be listened to in its entirety. The vocal harmonies are great, the playing typically tight and the variety of songs styles greater than anything they had released before. Read our full review here.

74. Kings Of Convenience – Quiet Is The New Loud


If a revolution for those that like subtle melodies, beautiful guitar playing and melancholy lyrics were likely then Norwegian duo of Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe would be leading the charge. The title of their album itself is a statement of quiet revolutionary intent for all the poetic and moody waifs of the world and the album delivers a stunning array of understated and downright lovely indie folk tracks. Their Scandinavian background echoes through each track with highlights including ‘Winning a battle, losing the war’ and a stripped back cover of A-Ha’s’ Manhattan Skyline.’ This album received mixed reviews when it came out in 2001, but over time has been rightly seen by many as up there with the best naval gazing folksters, earning them justifiable comparisons with Simon & Garfunkle and Belle & Sebastian.

73.  The Dead Milkmen – Beelzebubba

Beelzebubba

A band called The Dead Milkmen is unlikely to attract a mainstream audience, and an album containing songs called ‘My Many Smells’ and ‘Life Is Shit’ is not an easy sell. However, if you are looking for snotty punk with a sense of humour then you can’t go far wrong with this album. ‘Punk Rock Girl’ is the album’s standout moment, and their one MTV hit, but there is plenty more to entertain here including songs about rednecks, James Brown and a vengeful Ringo Starr buying a rifle to get back at John and Paul for overdubbing his drums (sample lyric “Hey Paul, you asshole… Dub this!”). The band sound bad tempered and angry and the music is fast and furious, great fun throughout. You probably don’t need many Dead Milkmen albums in your collection, but you need one and this is the pick of the bunch.

72. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels

Perfectionist Kevin Rowland built up and smashed down incarnations of his band Dexy’s Midnight Runners seemingly at will during the 1980s. But it’s this 1980 debut from the band’s first incarnation as a soul band with a punk heart that is our pick. Littered with stomping singles such as ‘Geno’  this album is also home to some contemporary soul classics penned by the band, such as ‘I’m Just Looking’ . The album was reissued to mark its 30th anniversary last year including a welcome set of extras of singles, B sides and radio sessions of this first and best Dexy’s line up.

71. Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The  Sea

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea has become a staple of ‘best album’ lists in recent years, which is strange considering what an odd record it is. The combination of stream-of-consciousness lyrics, over-wrought vocals and erratic instrumental arrangements is like nothing else, and all the better for that. Lead by former Olivia Tremor Control member Jeff Mangum and produced by Apples In Stereo front-man Robert Schneider Neutral Milk Hotel were the most esoteric act in the Elephant 6 roster. There is some of the psychedelic 60s garage sound, ‘Holland 1945’, but also aggressive folk and songs built around acoustic guitar and horns that sound like nothing else. From the twisted pop of ‘The King Of Carrot Flowers, Pt.1’ through to the Dylanesque folk of ‘Two headed Boy, Pt.2’ it is a surprising and unique album that never disappoints.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

Top 100 (90-81)Top 100 (100-91)

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