Josh Rouse – Love in the Modern Age
Love in the Modern Age sees Josh Rouse reinventing himself again for an album full of great singles
Having established a template of competent, melancholy pop over the course of his first three albums, Josh Rouse has since spent the intervening decade and a half attempting to demonstrate that – to paraphrase the Arctic Monkeys – whatever you think he is, that’s what he’s not. He took in funk (1972) and country (Nashville) before relocating from the U.S. to Spain. We then had three albums that wore Spanish or Latin American influences on their sleeves (Subtítulo, Country Mouse City House and El Turista) before Rouse seemed to settle in his own skin, delivering another three albums that felt nothing if not Josh Rouse-y. Time then, for another reinvention.
Love in the Modern Age plays down the guitar and plays up the synths and keyboards in a way that nods and winks to the likes of The Blue Nile and, to a lesser extent, Roxy Music. For the most part it works to exhilarating effect. Opener Salton Sea sets out his stall early – there are great washes of synth, vocoder effects and dreamy guitar solos a la War on Drugs as a backdrop to a take of nighttime yearning. This is followed by a trio of songs that could easily function as singles: Ordinary People, Ordinary Lives, Love in the Modern Age and Businessman are all lyrically firmly in Lloyd Cole country, but the arrangements that surround them are interesting and ambitious, fusing the kind of dissonant, synth shapes that are all over Blue Nile records with a curious Muzak-ality – as if Rouse is aspiring to find some kind of middle ground between early electronica and easy listening.
Out beyond the obvious single choices, there are songs that firmly fit in the vintage Rouse camp (I'm Your Man, for instance, could have appeared on either 1972 or Subtítulo), songs that are perfectly pitched to soundtrack daydreams (if you can hear Tropic Moon without thinking about a time you stared up at a foreign sky wanting to be nowhere but where you were... well, you're a better person than me) and songs that you'll be humming along to, much to the irritation of everyone you know (Women and the Wind). It's not perfect (Hugs and Kisses is something of a misfire) but it certainly stands alongside the best of what Rouse has done before.
Listen to: Businessman, Tropic Moon, I'm Your Man