I expected a bit of that low-high-low gentle growl from Glen Hansard‘s solo debut, “Rhythm and Repose”. His work in Once and with The Frames promised that — but alas, the Irish singer/songwriter delivers a downbeat, and slightly disappointing effort here.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely background music but it’s emanating from a man with a foreground voice who is, on this album, often burying the thing in the name of achieving an intimate tone that isn’t always present while each unremarkable song follows the last.
Someone like Alexi Murdoch pulls off a similar feat with a less grand sonic presentation, but that is something Hansard could not do, because it is as if he still wants to sound like he is still a part of a band, with all the trappings of that kind of arrangement. In the end, the piano player, the backing vocalists, and the like actually help him drown out his voice and it feels like the album he wanted to make might have been more upright and pure had he just kept things a bit more simple. Sure, the lyrics are strong, the music is melodic, but Hansard sounds, at times, like he lacks passion, and that feels like a very odd thing to say when talking about this particular singer.
This earnest sound isn’t exactly novel for Hansard, but there needs to be more behind it. His work with The Swell Season and his Once co-star Markéta Irglová, is a fine example of that.
You can listen to “Rhythm and Repose” in full, for free right now on NPR, and you can pick up a copy of the album on June 16th. I recommend this for anyone looking for a well crafted yet dulcet treat, but it’s more folk than rock, and Hansard fans would be better served dusting off your copy of The Frames “Fitzcarraldo”.