Skip to main content

12 by Josh Rouse

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Big Bad Eddie (Is Sweet Edward Now)

I wasn't surprised this week when I heard the news that Eddie Van Halen had left our mortal realm. For one, 2020 has been such a parade of awful news that nothing terrible is shocking anymore. For another, I knew Eddie had been reckoning with cancer for a long time. And for yet another, we're all just visitors here, but Eddie was especially so. We were lucky to get him for as long as we did. * With the inordinate number of monumental musicians we've lost since David Bowie's death in January 2016, it feels like my music writing has been approximately 75% eulogies. These essays have developed a predictable formula wherein I detail my personal history with that person's music. I fear the familiarity of that risks diminishing their impact, so for Eddie I wanted to honor his sense of innovation with my own. But there's a reason that formula came about. Ever since I was a teenager, the primary goal of my writing has been discovery. In the process of writing, I learn w

REO Speedwagon: Nine Lives (1979)

Where We Left Off: With Kevin Cronin back on lead vocals and Bruce Hall replacing Gregg Philbin on bass, REO Speedwagon were finally building sales momentum with two successful albums in a row. * Nine Lives  was released in July of 1979. The title was likely a reference to the fact that it was the band's ninth album (if you include You Get What You Play For ), as well as the fact that they'd survived a level of turmoil that would have been the end of a band with less fortitude. There are also nine songs on the album. Perhaps the most interesting and puzzling thing about this record - both in sound and in presentation - is how much it represented a swerve away from You Can Tune a Piano... .  You'd think that having finally hit on a successful formula REO would want to repeat it. But on the whole the music on Nine Lives abandons the countryish pop rock of the previous record in favor of a faster, harder sound, way more "Ridin' the Storm Out" than "T

REO Speedwagon: Life As We Know It (1987)

Where We Left Off: Wheels Are Turnin' was REO Speedwagon's third consecutive multi-million selling album, producing the #1 hit "Can't Fight This Feeling." * Produced by the same team as Wheels Are Turnin' (Cronin, Richrath, Gratzer, and David DeVore), Life As We Know It was recorded while when Kevin Cronin was going through a divorce. He says making the album was a welcome distraction from his family falling apart. At the same time, his relationship with Gary Richrath was fraught with tension. That set of circumstances played a huge part in the album's lyrical content, and knowing the record was the last one for the band's classic line-up makes for an intriguing listen. For example, it's commonly held that "Too Many Girlfriends," a tune about someone running too hot for too long, is Cronin taking a shot at Richrath. This is most evident in the self-referencing line, "he better find the one / he's gonna take on the run