Despite a successful career that’s stretched over 20 years, Rhythm & Repose is Glen Hansard’s first solo album. Not that Hansard’s been lazy: His C.V. includes fronting The Frames, his Swell Season project with Markéta Irglová, and the Oscar-winning film and now Tony Award-winning Broadway play Once. But while Hansard is finally branching out on his own, he doesn’t stray too far beyond his comfort zone. As a result, Rhythm & Repose is a confident effort, but one that sounds a little too recognizable.
The album’s most successful moments are the more stripped-down songs, like the album opener “You Will Become,” on which Hansard looks back on a failed relationship, and the organ- and piano-backed “Races,” on which he longs for another lost love. When that love isn’t already gone, he’s stepping away from it, like on the twangy “Maybe Not Tonight,” a throwback to the mellower moments of ’70s country and folk.
Not that the singer’s content to be languid. The jittery beat of “Talking With The Wolves” ups the lovelorn anxiety, as does the album’s best song, “Bird of Sorrow.” Reminiscent of The Swell Season, but sans Irglová (who appears elsewhere on the album), “Sorrow” is an elegant, string-backed ballad that builds to a thundering climax of piano and drums. Hansard promises, “Love is gonna find you again,” a sentiment that adds a layer of desperation by the end, as he yelps, “I’m not leaving yet / Yeah I’m hanging on.”
That intensity doesn’t carry throughout, though. The album for the most part is a dialed-back effort fitting for a Sunday morning come-down. Rhythm & Repose is never boring or lacking in tension, but it also doesn’t incite nearly as much excitement as it Hansard’s previous work.