Release Date: Apr 7, 2015
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Over a recording career now spanning 17 years and 11 albums, Josh Rouse has covered far more stylistic terrain than most of his singer/songwriter peers. Early albums like 2000's Home and 2002's Under Cold Blue Stars were tastefully restrained examples of mellow Americana, while he ventured into MOR '70s pop with 2003 effort 1972. His relocation to Spain added a warm Mediterranean and Latin vibe to later records like Subtítulo and El Turista.The Embers of Time marks something of a return to his earlier sound, and it was recorded in part in his former Nashville base, with longtime collaborator Brad Jones (Kelly Willis, Chuck Prophet) producing.
American singer-songwriter Josh Rouse’s 1998 debut Dressed Up Like Nebraska, a stark and monochrome album, was critically adored, and up until 2006, it appeared he could do no wrong. His move to Spain however was cast as a change in his music, which headed towards easy listening. Rouse seemed to have found happiness, and certain critics grumbled that this meant there was less edge or tension as a result, as if Rouse was spending all his time sitting on a Spanish beach in the sun, eating churros.
Boundless optimism has never been Josh Rouse's strong suit as a musician and songwriter, and when Rouse announced that his 11th album, 2015's The Embers of Time, would be "my surreal expat therapy record," inspired by a serious bout with depression and self-doubt, it was hard not to wonder just how deep into the Land of the Bummed Out Rouse was going to take us. Thankfully, while The Embers of Time clearly documents a difficult period in Rouse's life, he writes about relationships, depression, and therapy with intelligence, a dash of wit, and plenty of heart, and he sings with the rumpled gratitude of a man who has seen bad times, but also knows how much he learned from them (and that he's ended up in a better place as a result). Granted, the darkness is still there on numbers like "Pheasant Feather" and "Coat for a Pillow," but much of The Embers of Time recalls the gentle sound and feel of a singer/songwriter session of the '70s (reinforced by Rouse's vocal resemblance to Paul Simon), and these performances manage to sound honest and committed without spoiling their laid-back nature.
“I keep on moving/I can’t slow down/the last few years it’s been a struggle/to get along and hang around,” admits veteran singer-songwriter Josh Rouse on the revealing opening entry of what he calls his “surreal ex-pat therapy record. ” The upbeat string enhanced shuffle is driven by brushed drums and Rouse’s typically warm vocals on a track that feels like Nilsson’s version of “Everybody’s Talkin’. ” The breezy arrangement, complete with jazzy vibes, nearly obscures the darkness in the lyrics of a man coming to terms with his age and restless nature.