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Josh Rouse - Love in the Modern Age

  by Cila Warncke

published: 10 / 5 / 2018

Josh Rouse - Love in the Modern Age
Label: Yep Roc
Format: CD


Twelfth album from Nebraskan folk-pop singer Josh Rouse which takes a wrong turn around 1985

Nebraskan singer-songwriter Josh Rouse has written some fantastic albums in his twenty-year career. ‘Nashville’ and ‘1972’ are evergreen examples of wistful indie-folk that defy fault-finding. Which makes his new, self-produced, synth-laden LP ‘Love in the Modern Age ‘a puzzle of outsized proportion. What possessed a lo-fi troubadour to reimagine himself as the musical director of a 1980’s romcom? Why so much saxophone? Who thought this was progress? It pains me to write this because I really, really like Rouse. He has a honeyed, unmistakable voice that hasn't aged a whit. At their best, his songs are comforting and intimate: music for afternoon picnics or candlelight suppers with someone you love. Even 'Businessman' - easily the musical nadir of ‘Love in the Modern Age’ - is buoyed by his distinctive lilt. The problem is inane lyrics ("I want to be with you/24 hours a day/But you know I can't/I'm a businessman") set to cheesy softcore synths accented by goofy horn stabs. Lyrically, the rot continues with 'Women and the Wind'. Perhaps a lesser writer could carry off lines like "They come and go/Women and the wind/ Like the sunrise/To and fro" - the problem is Rouse has spent a couple of decades proving he can do better. Not that you'd know it from the harrowing opening couplet of 'Hugs and Kisses' ("Hugs and kisses/From the missus/We're on the mend/ Again"). On the whole, ‘Love in the Modern Age’ is frustrating, rather than awful. Despite the dodgy versifying and electronic waffle it has the persistent charm of an ugly puppy. Rouse is a superb singer, even when handling weak material. And not all of the songs are maddening. Brassy opener 'Salton Sea' is an indie-sounding track, and better for it, while 'I'm Your Man' oozes his familiar musical ease. Ultimately, as '80s-influenced records go, this is more pastiche than reinvention. Nevertheless, it has redemptive flashes of Rouse-ian grace.

Track Listing:-
1 Salton Sea
2 Ordinary People, Ordinary Lives
3 Love in the Modern Age
4 Businessman
5 Women and the Wind
6 Tropic Moon
7 I'm Your Man
8 Hugs and Kisses
9 There Was a Time

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