x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Josh Rouse and The Long Vacations

Rouse remains a gifted songwriter with a beautifully heartfelt croon, but one senses this laid-back musical approach has passed its use-by date.

Bedroom Classics
** 

Through his formidable catalogue of nine albums, one can increasingly divide the singer-songwriter Josh Rouse's career in two distinct phases: the time spent living in America and the current one where he resides in Spain.

Those phases couldn't be farther apart. The former found Rouse composing five albums of dense alt-country offerings that were dark, brooding and deeply romantic.

The latter four found him fiercely embracing the relaxed Spanish way of life and the results are chilled-out offerings mixing bossa nova and Latin pop with the summery melodies of Jack Johnson. With his new band, The Long Vacations, Rouse continues his laid-back musical exploration with another batch of songs forming the soundtrack to another lazy siesta. Rouse remains a gifted songwriter with a beautifully heartfelt croon, but one senses this laid-back musical approach has passed its use-by date.

The opener, the delicately picked Digging In the Sand, is basically one twee melody that fails to go anywhere. Fine, Fine incorporates flamenco guitar and maracas, but it comes off as relentlessly beige - the kind of forgettable tune a coffee shop would put on to appear hip.

But, most frustratingly, traces of the old Rouse can still be found with Move On, a beautifully soulful kiss-off to a former lover. It shows what the man can do when he bothers to try.