Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review - Josh Rouse - El Turista

Josh Rouse – El Turista
(Bedroom Classics) 22 February 2010

Five years ago Josh Rouse moved to Valencia, Spain with his new (Spanish) wife, Paz Suay. In 2005 he had just come off the back of the highlight of his musical career, a trilogy beginning with Under Cold Blue Stars, followed by '1972' (2003) and finally Nashville (2005). He met his new wife, left his longstanding relationship with Rykodisc and relocated to Spain, to release new recordings under his own label, Bedroom Classics.

The albums which have followed – Subtitulo (2007), Country House City Mouse, and She's Spanish I'm American EP (2008) are in truth, inferior to his previous output. While they are undoubtedly infused with Spanish sun and mediterranean rhythm, the melodies and hooks just aren't as good.

So by 2010 and the release of “El Turista” Josh has taken a different route. This time he is deliberately trying to be different. El Turista is a midwestern guy doing Brazilian songs in Spanish. Does it work? Well, a little.

El Turista is not going to please masses and gain five star reviews the way 1972 and Nashville did. It feels rather like an indulgence. We shouldn't expect an artist to stay still, especially not when they are surrounded by a new set of influences but nor should an artist expect to succeed at every style he turns his hand to. Josh showed that he can write a concept album (Under Cold Blue Stars), recreate the 70's (1972) and turn his hand to a great varieties of styles on Nashville so it is only natural to expect him to continue.

Taking a leaf from Paul Simon on Graceland he opens with the instrumental “Bienvenido”, before moving onto “Lemon Tree” and “I Will Live On Islands” with percolating Afro-Cuban grooves. The songs alternate between english and spanish.

The stand out track is probably “Sweet Elaine”, rather like an outtake from Nashville (think My Love Has Gone but with a double-time Latin beat and billowing strings. The record was inspired by a Bola de Nieve record which features Cubans signing in Spanish. If Cubans can do it, why not a Nebraskan?

Josh says “I've made records in the past and thought 'A lot of people might like this' but that never really happened during this record. I mean I want people to hear it but I really made it for myself'.

It sounds that way, fun, and I'm sure an artistic challenge, but I don't think a lot of people will really like this.

Rating: 3/5

Listen to Josh Rouse on Spotify

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks I agree the last 3 albums have been inferior to his earlier work. I think Josh just writes alot better unhappy. I know that sounds crazy but I think thats what made his first 5 so amazing. It was dark, lyrical, blended genres well. The new stuff feel too Paul Simonesque. I want Rouse to get over the laid back tendencies.