Josh Rouse Album Reviews

Nebraskan born singer-songwriter Josh Rouse grew up inspired by British bands like The Smiths and The Cure, and his music reflects both the homespun feeling of the American Midwest and the introverted yet poppy sound of the bands that influenced him. He also has a predilection for 1970’s soft rock, most explicitly on 2003’s excellent genre exercise album 1972. His observational songwriting and gentle voice are sometimes reminiscent of Paul Simon’s 1970’s work, while his penchant for 10 track, 40 minute albums also makes him feel like a throwback.

There’s lots to like about Rouse’s work, but I’m not sure that he’ll be remembered as a major artist. Rouse’s thoughtful songs are in the wrong era to find a mass audience, while his fondness for pop hooks and straightforward sensibilities don’t win him friends at Pitchfork. So Rouse is stuck in musical limbo, too clever for the mainstream but too white bread for hipsters, and he’s limited to fans of heartfelt, catchy song writing.

Josh Rouse started his career with the worthy but dour 1998 album Dressed Up Like Nebraska, and over the next few years became more confident and more musically expansive, building up to 1972 and 2005’s Nashville, which arguably stand as his two best records. 2006’s Subtítulo marks the start of a second phase in his career; Rouse relocated to Spain, and his subsequent releases often feel more light-hearted and less substantial, as well as often featuring a more Spanish flavour. I’m less familiar with Rouse’s later work, but overall it does feel less consistent than his initial run of albums.

Ten Favourite Josh Rouse Songs

Come Back (Light Therapy)
Sad Eyes
Christmas With Jesus
Parts and Accessories
Marvin Gaye
Winter in the Hamptons
My Love Has Gone
Under Cold Blue Stars
It Feels Like Love
Flair