Glen Hansard "Rhythm and Repose"

Irish troubadour Glen Hansard offers a startling collection of intense ballads on his debut solo release

Glen Hansard has chosen a fitting title for his debut solo release. Rhythm and Repose is a big, beautiful, haunting, album, rich with emotional imagery matched by gorgeous melodies. There is a deliberate rhythm to his songs; intense episodes of introspection are offset by quiet pools of delicate production. Hansard’s vocals range from whispered passions to primal howls of pain, often accompanied by a commiserating piano, cello, and violin.

As the front man for the alternative rock quintet The Frames, Hansard could rage with the best rock singers. As one half of the duo, The Swell Season, a collaborative project with Marketa Irglova, Hansard purred with the refinement of a balladeer. His first solo album sticks with the formula he perfected with The Swell Season, minus Irglova, sort of. She appears on “What Are We Going To Do?” It’s a strange song for the ex-lovers to be performing together. Hansard rues the possibility of losing a lover, while the newly married Irglova accompanies him. A cagey Hansard admitted to the New York Times that “Marketa’s in there” concerning this album.

Most of Rhythm and Repose is a quiet affair with Hansard singing to acoustic guitar and piano. He’s a man always in search for love but finding the pursuit to be confusing and full of angst. The best songs on the album feature a larger band, lending energy to his self-examining lyrics. These include the single “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting,” and “Talking With the Wolves” which features vocalist Hannah Cohen. Her bright addition offers contrast to his pensiveness. A percussive undertow created by piano and drums, joined by strings and an electric guitar interlude make this a highlight of the release.

Hansard has always been a master at creating poetic lyrics that warrant a reading as well as a listen. “Tethered to a bird of sorrow, a voice that’s buried in the hollow/you’ve given over to self-deceiving, you’re prostrated bowed, but not believing/you’ve squandered more than you can borrow….” No, these are not the words of a common popstar.

Rhythm and Repose is an album for quiet times. It is the kind of album you put on when you need to rest your eyes and contemplate your day. Take your time with this one but keep in mind, if you’ve recently suffered a broken heart this is going to be a very intense experience.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Host)