Glen Hansard

Rhythm And Repose

Written by: TL on 21/12/2012 18:25:17

You know how you sometimes come across reviews in which some would-be critic (like me) complains about 'stereotypical lyrics about heartbreak' or something along those lines? I always marvel at such complaints. If you ask me, if somebody's heart didn't break for one reason or another, what would any musician ever have to write about? Still, while rejection and heartbreak often become basis for easily relatable songs and lyrics, there's still a lot of difference between artists that handle the subject alright and artists that extract from it every drop of emotion they possibly can.

On that note, let's talk about Glen Hansard, the Irish singer-songwriter whom some might know from his coming of age in Irish indie band The Frames, and whom most will know from cult movie "Once" and the following musical project The Swell Season. With hits like "Say It To Me Now" and "Falling Slowly" from the latter two ventures, Hansard has already flashed his talent for communicating the burdens of a heavy heart, but with "Rhythm And Repose" the listener gets an LP's worth of the now mature Hansard tackling the issue entirely solo.

With a dozen songs based around subtle acoustic guitar and piano with backing from a variety of classical string instruments, Hansard conjures up songs around the realisation that there's an unsolvable conflict between you and someone you love deeply, starting with the initial concern, moving over the naive hope for resolution and the desperation upon the inevitable break, unto the later stages of bitter acceptance. "You Will Become" discovers the unspecified issues, while "High Hope" dares to dream that time might eventually - even if it's in many years - see some sort of reconnection. Both are highlights, but not quite so much as the utterly heartbreaking and doubt-stricken "What Are We Gonna Do" or the masterful "Bird Of Sorrow", which builds from tender verse to the type of all out emotional climax in which it's almost unbearable to hear Hansard crying his lungs out with palpable anguish.

Moments like these, in which Hansard extorts his talent for making his own melancholic pain relatable to the listenere, are delivered with a level of depth, texture and maturity that is all too seldom seen in modern music (I can recall hearing it only in music by Ryan Adams, Elbow or on Fleetwood Mac's legendary "Rumours"). Yet the sentimentality is so overpowering that it might admittedly have been too much of a pity-party if "Rhythm And Repose" had been tapped entirely from this fosset. It isn't however, and this is both its strength and its weakness. Because while the lazy, jazzy injections in "Maybe Not Tonight" and "Love Don't Leave Me Waiting" have a John Mayer-ish coolness in them, their moods just feel a little off when floating around the lyrics that still carry sadness just below the surface, and I have yet to decide whether I think this odd contrast is a virtue or a hindrance.

That being said, combining with the resigned "Races" and the eerie "Philander", these oddities do at the very least paint a varied background for the previously mentioned highlights to thrive upon. Moreover, if we discussed the stylistic excursions or the sequencing at great length, we would merely be diverting our attention from the unquestionable quality of the production and composition on offer here, with especially the latter making itself noticed via impactful strokes of the lower piano notes and via the stirring of the classical instruments, which often just sort of sizzle in the background of songs, adding a feeling of unrest, like the song is being played only while the orchestra is getting ready nearby. All things considered, "Rhythm And Repose" is simply a rare album in this day and age, with it's mature tempo and refined sentimentality making it an extremely recommendable listen to the soon-to-be grown-ups among you.


Download: Bird Of Sorrow, What Are We Gonna Do, You Will Become, High Hope
For The Fans Of: Ryan Adams, Damien Rice, Elbow, Fleetwod Mac

Release Date 19.06.2012
ANTI- Records

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