Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features...
Very easily confused with Joshua Radin or Josh Ritter, singer-songwriter Josh Rouse has released 13 full-length albums along with several EPs and rarities collections since his 1998 debut. That means reducing his output to only 12 songs is sort of a ridiculous exercise.
And yet, when you're introducing someone who has spent pretty much his entire career under the radar, you've gotta start somewhere.
(If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen along here.)
1. "Dressed Up Like Nebraska" (from Dressed Up Like Nebraska, 1998)
This is the sort of dreamy, thoughtful pop music we took for granted in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Perfect for soundtracking that week's episode of Felicity or Dawson's Creek.
2. "Directions" (from Home, 2000)
Cameron Crowe used this in his 2001 movie Vanilla Sky. I didn't enjoy the movie, but I did enjoy the soundtrack (sadly this statement applies to all of Cameron Crowe's post-Almost Famous movies).
3. "Under Cold Blue Stars" (from Under Cold Blue Stars, 2002)
Rouse sets aside his alt-country folk thing to do lounge music, with fantastic results. He's rightly return to that well several more times in subsequent years.
4. "Come Back (Light Therapy)" (from 1972, 2003)
In my opinion 1972 and Nashville should fight it out for best Josh Rouse albums. You couldn't go wrong with either one as a good introduction to his work. True to the album title, this tune sounds like a lost Al Stewart tune.
5. "It's the Night Time" (from Nashville, 2005)
This one is also true to the album title, a light country rocker with a great pedal steel backing.
6. "It Looks Like Love" (from Subtitulo, 2006)
A soaring melody. "And just when you start believin' in it, it looks like love is gonna show its face."
7. "London Bridges" (from Country Mouse City House, 2007)
It sounds pretty and sweet, but this is actually a savage break-up tune.
8. "I Will Live On Islands" (from El Turista, 2010)
If you're trying to find a good comparison for Rouse, Paul Simon is a pretty fair one to make, and here Rouse leans completely into it with a Graceland/Rhythm of the Saints style composition.
9. "Oh, Look What the Sun Did!" (from Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations, 2011)
Shambling, sparse, and lovely. If you'll forgive a snobby rock critic indulgence, it's like Nick Drake collaborating with Ram-era Paul McCartney.
10. "A Lot Like Magic" (from The Happiness Waltz, 2013)
For me, this album marked a return to form for Rouse, and I think it's far and above his best since Nashville. Rouse can bend to a few different styles, but it's never a bad move for him to lean into '70s style AM Gold, as he does on this song.
11. "New Young" (from The Embers of Time, 2015)
The title of this harmonica-and-harmony-laden country lope has to be a play on "Neil Young," right?
12. "Businessman" (from Love in the Modern Age, 2018)
After listening to all of his Blue Nile albums over and over again, Rouse made the chill-synth Love in the Modern Age. It's a fantastic piece of work, with a sly sense of humor underlying many of its songs.