Inspired by Tim Byron (, I will wank on about my top ten favourite albums of the year in backwards order.

07. Josh Rouse – Nashville
Ryko Records

This album hit so late that it didn’t even make my best of the year compilation. And it was the follow-up to the flawless masterpiece that was 1972 and at first listen all I could hear were the flaws. Bit samey, except a bit jazzier. Lyrics are kind of crap. It’s kind of cold and closed in.

I first discovered Rouse with Under Cold Blue Stars, the first of two flawless albums by my count. It was one of the brightest pop albums I’ve ever heard, just bubbling confidently with ideas and sounds. 1972 took it to a 70s groove. And Nashville simply, at first listen, lack the hooks and energy of those two albums.

Which is completely the point, I now guess. It’s another cold, late night album. The groove is even more laid back. A layer has been taken off, and a lushness has been put in place. The beautiful Streetlights sounds like song from a movie adaptation of a musical.

Thing is, there’s not a bad song on here. The hooks do get to you, it just takes months. Winter In the Hamptons is as upbeat as anything Rouse has performed (with great ba-ba’s). Life and My Love Is Gone are some of his best acoustic ballads, and the masterful Sad Eyes starts as a solo piano performance for half the time before the band joins in for a killer groove, and is Rouse’s most ambitious work to date.

It is, in fact, Sad Eyes that got me. Other random tracks would come on the ipod and they would always be enough to make me look twice at it, but the part when the band came in made me give this entire album another chance. I’m glad I did. It’s already like an old friend, it’s on par with what I expected – it’s just I like to be surprised.

That said, the lyrics are solid but, being a divorce album, kind of morbid, but worse, clichéd. And with the steady progression of his last few albums, this minor step forward can’t help but be disappointing.

Maybe this is Rouse’s Help! Five albums in and the template is wearing thin. Word is his new album will be a departure in world music. We’ll see. But if you get past the fact there are no easy singles on here, that every song is a self contained thing, and the whole package never reaches great heights or falls to great lows, then it’s great.

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