Album Review

Josh Rouse - Subtitulo

Josh Rouse - Subtitulo

Josh Rouse can't be mistaken for Tom Waits or Wayne Coyne. His lyrics approach ordinary experiences with ordinary language. His voice, even in falsetto, retains the cautious huskiness of a man trying not to wake his neighbors. He's not likely ever to build an album around an obscure concept. Yet his light touch, evident on his sixth full-length album, Subtitulo, distinguishes him from almost every other contemporary singer-songwriter. Ever since Rouse teamed up with producer Brad Jones on 1972, his 2003 bow to the sweet honeyed rock of his youth, he's become increasingly adept at coloring his music. While Subtitulo favors an acoustic guitar-based subtlety, the jazzy bass of "Summertime" and the lazily staccato electric piano of "His Majesty Rides" are among the many assured tones. Assurance overlaps with Rouse's sense of place. His 2004 album Nashville bade farewell to the city he'd called home; Subtitulo says hello from Spain, where he now lives. The opening track, "Quiet Town", simply describes a calm Spanish village, while on "Jersey Clowns" he croaks and croons across delicately swelling strings that evoke a chilly east coast drizzle. Rouse generally keeps his geographical markers -- Philly soul, Spanish guitar -- separate, but in "The Man Who...", he sets the beguiling Hispanic voice of Paz Suay beside his own, then drops them both into a New York love story. As caution gives way to hope in the song, Rouse gives way to the pleasures and possibilities of his changed surroundings. His muse continues to revel in the exceptional ordinariness of the everyday.