Rhythm and Repose Plateau Records****
It was somewhat inevitable that Glen Hansard would release a solo album sooner or later, but it wouldn’t have happened without the cumulative experiences of two eventful decades informing the Ballymun native’s songwriting. Or at least it wouldn’t have happened so naturally.
Although Rhythm and Repose comes in the wake of a surreal five-year period involving Academy Awards and an animated appearance on The Simpsons, the surreal transpirations of his recent life have no audible bearing on his solo debut.
As its title suggests, this is a composed collection of songs that see the 42-year-old comfortably inhabiting his own niche after six studio albums with The Frames and an underwhelming brace as half of The Swell Season.
Hansard’s relocation to New York, where he has lived for the past year, was about the best thing that he could have done. Removing himself from the tiny Irish scene that he has spent 20 years percolating in and surrounding himself with the likes of contributors Sam Amidon, Javier Mas and
Brad Albetta, has turned up terrific results. But it’s his partnership with producer Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett – the young pianist and producer whose services are in demand by everyone from Rufus Wainwright to David Byrne – that provides a sturdy foundation to work off.
Bartlett’s influence is audible on the understated orchestration behind several songs (including the melancholic swoon of opening track You Will Become and the Van Morrison-like High Hope), and in the temperate flush of warm Laurel Canyon folk on Maybe Not Tonight.
Most encouragingly, there are songs that find Hansard in previously unchartered musical territory. Talking With the Wolves and Philander are instant standouts: the former’s bracing strut picking up the pace amid a clutch of languorous numbers, the latter’s sultry, piano-based stalk adding texture to the cluster of mournful ballads.
Neither would slot into the Frames or Swell Season’s catalogue, but here they sound comfortably at home.
Undoubtedly the best thing that Hansard has done in years, and perhaps a signifier of a lengthy solo career. Glenhansardmusic.com
Download tracks:Talking With the Wolves, Philander