Josh Rouse: 1972

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Josh Rouse

Album: 1972
Label: Slow River/Rykodisc
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Josh Rouse

Album: 1972
Label: Slow River/Rykodisc

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Josh Rouse's new 1972 is named after the year of his birth, as well as the year of the music he's into right now: a smooth, soulful sound informed by the light rock and lush R&B of the early '70s. The album incorporates traces of Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison, Steely Dan, and Carole King, but pinning down the influences isn't important, because 1972 isn't about throwback shtick or note-for-note copying. Rouse shadows the sophistication and perfection of classic pop, trying to replicate its power to make listeners feel more at peace with their awkward relationships. He keeps the lyrics fairly simple–no abstract song-suites about broken marriages, like those on his sublime 2002 album Under Cold Blue Stars. And while 1972 has its tales of drunks ("James") and bullied underdogs ("Flight Attendant"), the preponderance of strings, flutes, vibes, horns, and handclaps outweighs any sullen moments. The feel-good chant-along "Love Vibration" is atypical Rouse, but typical of 1972: Its sweet orchestrations and chipper mood couldn't be more buoyant. "Sunshine" and "Slaveship" are similarly complex in arrangement and minimal in concept, the former an uptempo declaration of love and the latter an even more beat-crazy plea for understanding. The album's second half gets mellower and more sensual, starting with the supple "Come Back (Light Therapy)," a proto-disco ballad about the wished-for return of a metaphorical and literal sun, and continuing through the muted make-out number "Under Your Charms," highlighted by a dusky duet of strings and fuzzy guitar. Rouse's usual restlessness crops up on 1972, and if the record has a common lyrical theme, it has to do with an urgent reaching out for something good. A lot of that good resides in Rouse's own music and its confident assurance of beauty, but he goes further on "Rise" (perhaps his best song yet), as he invests a spiritual, ascendant hope in the reliability of waking up next to the same person every day.

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