Josh Rouse’s latest album deflects most listeners’ first complaint with its title. Born in the Midwest, Rouse married a Spanish woman and moved to Valencia five years ago. Post-move efforts like Subtitulo and She’s Spanish, I’m American feature a distinct, though unmistakably casual, interest in some new sounds, a trend that El Turista continues. It also, sadly, carries on Rouse’s newfound emphasis on pleasant textures over passion and songcraft. Rouse never settles into any of these styles; he’s just breezing through.
Turista also feels assembled from the stray ends of better ideas. An interest in Bola De Nieve makes itself known via two covers of songs the Cuban musician made famous, both sung in awkwardly accented Spanish. Another cover, a strange take on “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” provides one of the better moments, however. That’s partly by contrast; there’s more drama in Rouse’s languid, almost disoriented reading than on an original like “Lemon Tree,” a long drift through a pleasant landscape with no discernible destination. Apart from a few standouts, like the Graceland-hearkening “I Will Live On Islands,” Turista offers mostly seaswept dinner music for people who don’t want much to chew on.