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Alternative & Indie - Released November 1, 2019 | Yep Roc Records

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What does a Christmas album sound like? Whatever you're imagining, it probably isn't a lot like Josh Rouse's first holiday-themed release, 2019's The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse, and that's one of the best things about it. Instead of trying to bend his soulful and rootsy approach to covers of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" or "Silent Night," Rouse has written nine tunes that allow him to do what he does well -- and they just so happen to be about the Christmas season. The Holiday Sounds is a collection of short stories of people's lives told with wit, compassion, and a keen eye, and though they all have something to do with common late-December events, they're smart and engaging enough to work no matter what month it may be. "Red Suit" imagines a laid-back Santa kicking back during the off-season, "Easy Man" has a breezy, jazz-infused feel as Josh goes with the Yuletide flow, "New York Holiday" celebrates a big-city Christmas with a piano line that nods to Vince Guaraldi, and "Heartbreak Holiday" offers sympathy to those who have been recently dumped while the rest of the world celebrates. The melodies have a warm, comfortable tone, and the friendly, slightly dusty sound of Rouse's voice is a fine complement to the primarily acoustic arrangements, with Brad Jones' keyboards and vibraphone and James "Hags" Haggerty's bass earning special kudos. If you want something for your big holiday party that will be familiar to all your guests, The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse is not at all what you're looking for. But if you want to hear a gifted singer and songwriter deliver a set of thoroughly pleasing songs that feel as comfortable as your favorite sweater, this is just the thing to play as you enjoy a roaring fire and the glow of the Christmas tree. (The CD version of The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse also includes a bonus disc where Rouse puts his spin on three holiday classics you certainly know by heart as well as demo versions of three tracks from the album.) © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 11, 2006 | Ryko - Rhino

Josh Rouse's 1972 gives away the game in the first line of the first song, the exquisite title track, when he name-checks Carole King. The record is going back in time and it is going to have fun doing it. Rouse's records have always been highly literate and highly musical, but they have never been fun like this, and make no mistake, 1972 is a fun record. Rouse sounds as loose as a goose and the songs reflect that. Not always lyrically, as some of the songs touch on such non-fun subjects as loneliness, repression, and bitterness, but definitely musically. To that end, Brad Jones' production is spot-on perfect -- not an instrument is out of place and the whole record has a jaunty bounce and a lush dreaminess. 1972 is coated with sonic goodness: fluttering strings, piping horns, cotton-candy sweet flutes, funky percussion, handclaps, and great backing vocals. Rouse and Jones find inspiration in all the right places: in the laid-back groove of Al Green, the California haze of Fleetwood Mac, the dreamy melancholia of Nick Drake, the sexy groove of Marvin Gaye, and the wordy lilt of Jackson Browne or James Taylor. The songs are the strongest batch Rouse has written yet. "Love Vibration" is the hit single; it has everything a hit single needs: musical hooks, lyrical hooks, vocal hooks, a smoldering sax solo (optional), and a groovy video. Other songs that are sure to be in heavy rotation are "James," a funky ballad that shows off Rouse's wonderful falsetto (as does "Comeback [Light Therapy]") and takes time for that most elusive creature, a good flute solo; "Under Your Charms," a sultry, sensual ballad that takes a potentially squirm-inducing subject and actually does it right, Marvin-style; and "Rise," a beautifully orchestrated epic that ends the record on a perfect note. 1972 should vault Rouse to the forefront of intelligent pop alongside kindred spirits like Joe Pernice and Kurt Wagner (of Lambchop). If you say you've heard a better adult pop record this year, you are lying. [Initial pressings of the album came complete with a bonus DVD featuring the video for "Love Vibration" and a short documentary about Josh Rouse and his music. The first 100 copies even came with autographed liner notes.] © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 22, 2005 | Ryko - Rhino

Josh Rouse's album from 2003 1972 was hailed by many as a triumph. He cast aside the gloom that pervaded his early records, opened up his sound to include such disparate sources as Memphis soul, '70s soft rock, '60s baroque pop and straight-ahead danceable pop. Easily the equal of any of his contemporary's work, one had the fear that it might have represented a one-time-only peak performance. Not to worry. Nashville reunites Rouse with producer Brad Jones and the two have concocted a sound even bouncier and dreamier than the already impossibly dreamy and bouncy 1972. There are hints of all the styles Rouse references on 1972 but here they are integrated into his sound more smoothly. Jones adds all kinds of varied keyboards, strings, guitar sounds, bits of sonic trickery and atmosphere to that sound which leads to each song sounding similar but also quite different. The production and sound are half the game and Rouse doesn't let his half down, as his songs are incredibly strong on Nashville. "Streetlights," the Smiths-influenced "Winter in the Hamptons," "Carolina," and the heart-broken piano ballad "Sad Eyes"; they are as hooky as anything on 1972 but have more weight and emotional power. By the time each song is through it is stamped into your memory, turning the record into an instantly familiar kind of classic. His lyrics are as sharp and surprising as ever. He is incredibly adept at dropping in lines that shock you in a very pleasant way; the very first song, the sweetly gliding "It's the Nighttime," has the wonderful lines "maybe later on/after the late, late show/we can go to your room/ I can try on your clothes." His storytelling skills are sharp, too, as the teen angst epic "Middle School Frown" amply demonstrates. Apparently his personal life has seen all kinds of upheaval in the last little while but you'd be hard pressed to hear it in the sunny melodies. You can hear hints of it in the lyrics if you listen hard especially on "My Love Has Gone" (unsurprisingly) and "Saturday." You can also hear it in the melancholy catch in Rouse's whispery vocals. Even the jauntiest song on the album is reeled in a little. The contrast between happy melodies and sad lyrics is one of the oldest tricks in the pop book and when it is pulled off as well as Rouse does here, you have to be impressed. In fact the whole record is worthy of any and all accolades you might want to shower upon it. Somebody will really have to pull off a miracle to top Nashville as far as intelligent, honest and entertaining guitar pop goes in 2005. Or any other year. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Country - Released July 3, 2020 | Yep Roc Records

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Rock - Released April 28, 2000 | Ryko - Rhino

Josh Rouse plays it straight like the roads and byways which criss-cross the Great Plains. This music is the no-frills variety that takes a bit of getting used to, but once acclimated, listeners start to feel like they've come across something real. The songs which comprise Dressed Up Like Nebraska sound like they've really happened, if not to the artist, then to those near and dear to him. From "Suburban Sweetheart" to "Late Night Conversation" to "White Trash Period of My Life" to "A Woman Lost in Serious Problems," the thread of real-life experiences weaves the listener through every possible emotion. Dark, but not melancholy, Dressed Up Like Nebraska is the type of record that the Nashville hat squad try to say isn't made any more. This is one of those classic discs one hears about, but seldom hears. © James Chrispell /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 7, 2015 | Yep Roc Records

Boundless optimism has never been Josh Rouse's strong suit as a musician and songwriter, and when Rouse announced that his 11th album, 2015's The Embers of Time, would be "my surreal expat therapy record," inspired by a serious bout with depression and self-doubt, it was hard not to wonder just how deep into the Land of the Bummed Out Rouse was going to take us. Thankfully, while The Embers of Time clearly documents a difficult period in Rouse's life, he writes about relationships, depression, and therapy with intelligence, a dash of wit, and plenty of heart, and he sings with the rumpled gratitude of a man who has seen bad times, but also knows how much he learned from them (and that he's ended up in a better place as a result). Granted, the darkness is still there on numbers like "Pheasant Feather" and "Coat for a Pillow," but much of The Embers of Time recalls the gentle sound and feel of a singer/songwriter session of the '70s (reinforced by Rouse's vocal resemblance to Paul Simon), and these performances manage to sound honest and committed without spoiling their laid-back nature. The Embers of Time is a collection of songs full of doubt, but the recordings make it clear Rouse and his accompanists went into the studio in a stronger state of mind, and though it's a stretch to call it a happy album (from an artist who routinely pondered the dark side of his life), it's full of charm, wit, and guarded optimism as Rouse tells us a bit about his demons with an honesty that suggests some, if not all, of them are in his rear view mirror. If only therapy was this effective and entertaining for everyone. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released April 13, 2018 | Yep Roc Records

Moving away from the therapeutic self-examinations of 2015's The Embers of Time, singer/songwriter Josh Rouse rides another sea change, this time inspired by the sophisti-pop elegance of early-'80s acts like the Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout, and the Style Council. Unlike many of their contemporaries at the time, those bands took a more poetic and introspective approach to songwriting, adding warmth and craft to what was frequently electronic-based pop music. Eschewing his typically organic nature, Rouse does the same on the sleek but affecting Love in the Modern Age. Led by the exquisitely detailed synth-led singles "Businessman" and "Salton Sea," the Spain-based Nebraskan expat crafts lush worlds populated by jet-lagged romantics and lonesome seekers, dishing out clever couplets like "She was desperate, I was not right, packed an omnichord and a flashlight." The travel-weary tone Rouse has carried throughout his career remains in full effect here, pressed into new shapes and moods but authentic to his ongoing narrative. As suggested by its title, Love in the Modern Age wrestles with feelings of detachment, celebrating the fearless romantics who persevere on the sax-adorned title cut, then coolly disengaging with the take-it-or-leave-it tone of "I'm Your Man." The overall production aesthetic is slick and appealingly moody, with the hint of a smile to reveal just how much fun Rouse is having dabbling in this sonic milieu. It's a welcome break after the heaviness of his previous outing and, with his smart pop songwriting and clear vocal delivery, the veteran singer takes quite easily to the role of new romantic bard. © Timothy Monger /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 1, 2006 | Ryko - Rhino

Anyone who has heard Josh Rouse's work would hardly be surprised to learn that his third album, Under Cold Blue Stars, is dominated by musical snapshots which focus on the darker shadows of human relationships; after all, that's what the man does best. But this time out, Rouse sounds a bit less obsessive about the less cheerful side of life, occasionally finding glimpses of happiness along the way, and Under Cold Blue Stars is certainly his most musically inviting work to date. With producer Roger Moutenot at the controls, Rouse has found a sound that's a good bit warmer and more richly textured than the beautiful but stark surfaces of Dressed Up Like Nebraska, and the songs certainly warm to this more full-bodied approach. "Nothing Gives Me Pleasure" is perhaps the least ambiguous love song Rouse has written to date, and the gentle but yearning arrangement gives the tune just the right amount of lift, while the R&B accent of the title cut is hardly what you'd expect from Rouse, but he brings it off beautifully. Under Cold Blue Stars is a loosely structured song cycle about the lives of a Midwestern couple in the 1950s (based in part on his parents), and while the songs don't quite cohere into a unified narrative (that doesn't appear to have been the intention), together they do add up to more than the sum of their parts, with the journeys and arrivals, joys and sorrows, happy holidays and bittersweet reconciliations transforming themselves into the building blocks of life as most of us live it. Under Cold Blue Ground blazes some new trails for John Rouse, but the quality of his songwriting and the emotional impact of his music hasn't changed a bit; it's a solid and satisfying set from a genuinely gifted artist. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 29, 2004 | Ryko - Rhino

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Pop - Released September 5, 2008 | Ryko - Rhino

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Rock - Released April 28, 2000 | Ryko - Rhino

While this follow-up to the excellent Dressed Up Like Nebraska doesn't offer any revelations, it's another dreamy, tuneful effort. Adding more colors to his palette, including horns and strings, Rouse seems intent on beefing up his sound. But he doesn't exactly break out of his trademark ethereal vibe, which causes the album to drag at times. © Tim Sheridan /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 19, 2013 | Yep Roc Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 19, 2015 | Yep Roc Records

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Pop - Released March 19, 2013 | Yep Roc Records

After a couple of albums that incorporated the influences of living in Spain (flamenco guitars, Spanish lyrics,) singer/songwriter Josh Rouse changes course on The Happiness Waltz to make an album that would have fit in well with those he was making in the early 2000s like 1972 and Nashville. Weaving together elements of country-rock, soft rock, Americana, and classic singer/songwriter sounds, Rouse and his longtime producer Brad Jones create a tightly arranged, beautifully constructed sound that matches Rouse's smoothly crooned vocals perfectly. Acoustic and electric guitars are nicely layered, keyboards and nice sonic touches (like horn sections) fill the edges of the songs in with color, and the occasional pedal steel sounds really nice -- the duo know how to make a fine-sounding record. While there aren't any songs that are as hooky as the best songs from the aforementioned albums, there are a few that stick in the memory like the bubbly "Julie (Come Out of the Rain)" or the bouncy "A Lot Like Magic." The rest are pleasant and easygoing, but never really capture the imagination. Rouse sounds like he's cruising lyrically -- writing a song about writing songs ("Our Love") is usually a sure indication that someone is getting close to the bottom of the inspiration barrel. Especially when the same song talks about putting the kids to bed. The reason it's hard to write him and the album off is that the song is absolutely beautiful, sounding like 10cc producing Al Green and creating a fluffy mood that is heartwarmingly sweet. It's a music vs. lyrics disconnect that happens again and again, and makes the album hard to get a grasp on. A little more passion in the vocals and songs that are actually about something would have made The Happiness Waltz a triumphant return, instead it feels like backtracking. It was time for Rouse to end his musical vacation and go back to his traditional sound; it's just too bad he takes it so easy. That being said, a mediocre Josh Rouse album is still good for a few listens, especially if you don't listen to what he's saying and just let the music's sunny warmth fill you up. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 9, 2019 | Yep Roc Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 2, 2018 | Yep Roc Records

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Folk/Americana - Released March 9, 2010 | Yep Roc Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 9, 2019 | Yep Roc Records

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Folk/Americana - Released March 9, 2010 | Yep Roc Records

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Country - Released July 10, 2019 | Yep Roc Records