On first listen, Josh Rouse's latest, Subtítulo,
seems a jaunty, folk-pop stroll through the countryside. With elements
of pop, jazz, folk, and disco, Subtítulo has a mellow
late '70s-meets-European discoteque vibe, but beneath the album's
musical breeziness lies a songwriter searching for answers - about
life, about love, about where he belongs in the world. Recorded entirely
in Spain, Rouse wrote Subtítulo in his first week after
fleeing Nashville to reside in the Mediterranean coastal town of Altea.
The upbeat, yet wistful "Quiet Town" begins Subtítulo.
An ode to Altea featuring an acoustic pop melody over Latin hand percussion,
"Quiet Town" finds Rouse throwing of the shackles of city
life and embracing the quiet of the Spanish coast. "Summertime"
is a jazzy Spanish guitar-infused tribute to Rouse's childhood in
the early '80s. "Summertime" also features one of Rouse's
most interesting vocals on Subtítulo - a raspy Tom
The middle section of Subtítulo is full of disco-infused
romantic songs and simple middle American folk songs. "It Looks
Like Love" has a bass riff and dance rhythm worthy of Chic,
while "Jersey Clowns" is the acoustic folk story of a lower
level mafioso who is forced to confront his girlfriend's chronic infidelity.
"His Majesty Rides" breaks the trend with its Steely
Dan-meets-Santana jam vibe and lyrics about the ephemeral
nature of life as a touring musician. "Givin' It Up" reclaims
the disco feel with its electronic strings, funky dance beat, and
lyrics about the downside of clubbing and love, while "Wonderful"
is a straightforward love song set to Latin acoustic guitar, congas,
and pop strings.
The jazzy duet (with Spanish chanteuse Paz Suay) "The
Man Who..." and the folk-pop "El Otro Lado" round out
the album with Rouse's most thought-provoking lyrics. "The Man
Who..." tells the tale of a man engrossed in and by his loneliness
and the friend who would like to make things better for him. The latter
is a mellow story of the struggle for enlightenment, wherein Rouse
comes to the realization that some people never evolve while others
just take their sweet time getting there.
Subtítulo is an easy, yet engaging listen - both lyrically
and musically. There is experimentation in Rouse's work, but the production
is subtle and the lyrics personal, lending Subtítulo an
air of intimacy.
-Tracy M. Rogers
1. Quiet Town
3. It Looks Like Love
4. La Costa Blanca
5. Jersey Clowns
6. His Majesty Rides
7. Givin' It Up
9. The Man Who...
10. El Otro Lado
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