September 20, 2007

Record Review: Josh Rouse

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If you really wanted to find fault in Josh Rouse’s Country Mouse, City House, you could point to the sappiness in the lines from his first track, “Sweetie,” or to the excess of “la la la la’s” in his second track, “Italian Dry Ice.” In “Sweetie,” Rouse sings about “Two lazy dreamers on a winter’s night.” While his resultant questions, “Is that you? Is that me?” are enough to make any listener stifle a gag, on his third track, “Hollywood Bass Player,” everything gets much easier to swallow, and even becomes enjoyable.
Rouse’s musical style is hard to define — possibly something between folk, pop and John Mayer (for whom Rouse opened during a winter 2007 tour). This definitely is disconcerting at first, but because nothing in particular stands out as being very strange or wrong in the music; it is easy to adjust to Rouse’s unidentifiable music style.
The horns that open “Hollywood Bass Player” and play in the background throughout are reminiscent of the calming melodies of a Sufjan Stevens song, with a much more upbeat dominating melody. In “London Bridges,” Rouse’s lyrics can only be described as cute: “I am not the kid to tell you how to love or how to live/ And if you think that I am just a bridge … / This bridge is falling down.” After listening to many of Rouse’s songs just once or twice — particularly “London Bridges” — you may find yourself singing along as if you have been listening to the music forever.
But catchy lyrics do not make great music.
Consequently, if you rate music based on how deep it dares to travel, whether it strikes a chord within you or merely skims your surface, you might give Rouse’s light sing-songy style a low mark. Few lyrics actually resonate, and some do not even appear to make much sense. For instance, in “It Looks Like Love,” Rouse describes a girl who teases him so much that he claims, “I’m flying at her like I never played/ Like some clueless fool.” Yet, he then goes on to say (not just once, but in the chorus), “It looks like love is gonna find a way … just when you stop believing in it.”
Rouse might benefit from consulting a dictionary.
He is not describing love, but rather infatuation, quite a different thing. Unfortunately, the album’s title, Country Mouse, City House is as enigmatic as some of the lyrics within the album.
There is nothing exceedingly outstanding about Rouse’s music. Yet his voice never fails to be soothing, and the melodies of the instruments in the background fit together like a puzzle — the guitar stand out at times, the drums at others and the brass even still at others.
Rouse succeeds in keeping a steady beat throughout. Overall, Country Mouse, City House is an album full of catchy lyrics and original instrumentals, perfect as background music for a lazy- homework-Sunday or as unwinding music at the end of a long and stressful weekday.