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Josh Rouse
Bedroom Classics/Nettwerk Records

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 Waits-like delivery.

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

Track List:
1. Quiet Town
2. Summertime
3. It Looks Like Love
4. La Costa Blanca
5. Jersey Clowns
6. His Majesty Rides
7. Givin' It Up
8. Wonderful
9. The Man Who...
10. El Otro Lado

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