Glen Hansard, ‘Rhythm and Repose’ – Album Review
Glen Hansard knows how you feel. The Oscar-winning crooner has one of the most vulnerable, as well as most affecting, voices in the singer-songwriter racket — a man of a million sympathies. While the male half of the Swell Season doesn’t branch out far on ‘Rhythm and Repose,’ his first solo album gives your heartstrings nearly as great a tug at anything he’s done.
A cursory listen reveals that this is not his finest 46 minutes — that honor still rests with the aforementioned Season, whose film ‘Once’ captured the hearts and eyes of 2006, and has since been turned into a Broadway musical. Hansard continues to be unerringly romantic in ‘Rhythm and Repose.’ His howls and yelps are not passion misspent — though being so familiar, they may become diminishing returns.
Now 42, Hansard remains a true troubadour, singing out for romantic wanderings. The nocturnal, heartfelt ‘You Will Become’ is an ode to the promise of youth, with Hansard’s heaviness buoyed once again by Marketa Irglova, the softer half of the Swell Season — the track could have been on their film’s soundtrack. The hopeful, cuddly ‘Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting’ is organic pop-rock comfort food, somewhere between John Mayer and a bowl of macaroni and cheese. There’s more “always gonna love yous” in the tense, stripped down ‘Philander,’ the stretched vowels of the chorus spicy chicken soup for the sensual soul.
Indeed, Hansard’s vocal strength is in his expressiveness: The yelping declarations of “I’m not leaving here” among ‘Bird of Sorrow’ violin swells are sensitive listener catnip, and the quavering vibrato of ‘High Hope’ and ‘The Storm, It’s Coming,’ will leave their share of goosebumps. The guy-girl break-up duet of ‘What Are We Gonna Do’ is conversational and relatable, though the song’s lyrical content — and those of the others — are getting a little threadbare with use.
As the name suggests, ‘Rhythm and Repose’ is a continuation, but perhaps not an elevation, of Glen Hansard’s work. The music has all of the hallmarks for which we’ve grown so fond of him for: the authenticity, the transparency, the voice. But even with the plethora of emotions presented here, you can’t shake the feeling that this songwriter is not challenging himself in the ways he once was. Maybe what he’s doing is honing his craft; as listeners, we’d like to hear his art expand.