Release Date: Apr 13, 2018
Record label: Yep Roc
Moving away from the therapeutic self-examinations of 2015's The Embers of Time, singer/songwriter Josh Rouse rides another sea change, this time inspired by the sophisti-pop elegance of early-'80s acts like the Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout, and the Style Council. Unlike many of their contemporaries at the time, those bands took a more poetic and introspective approach to songwriting, adding warmth and craft to what was frequently electronic-based pop music. Eschewing his typically organic nature, Rouse does the same on the sleek but affecting Love in the Modern Age.
The pre-release literature for Rouse's follow-up to 2015's The Embers Of Time would appear to be bracing listeners for a marked departure. Mention is made that the songs take their cue from the likes of Prefab Sprout, The Blue Nile or The Style Council - a far cry from the rootsy Americana that distinguished most of his previous work. As it transpires, the album nonetheless retains several Rouse signatures in its thoughtful, lyrically prosaic and sturdily melodic songs, even if there's an at first surprising 80s sheen to the production.
There ought to be a law that says if you successfully make a 20-year career out of writing, recording and releasing thoughtful and catchy folk-pop songs on the acoustic guitar, you should be required to record and release an album of songs written using mostly synthesizers. That seems to be the basic idea behind veteran singer-songwriter Josh Rouse's new album Love in the Modern Age. It's not perfect.