Rhythm and Repose
Glen Hansard's music is best known for supporting Once, both the movie (2007) and the Broadway musical, which is currently running. Neither provides a totally accurate representation. The film's soundtrack is rawer and more intimate than the rest of his work, Hansard's character a street performer instead of a guy who'd been professionally recording his music for 15 years. As for the musical, I hear it has the artist's approval, but can only imagine how it dehumanizes his gentle, warm tunes. Rhythm and Repose, Hansard's first album under his name after years with the Frames and Swell Season, makes a good case for appreciating that music on its own terms. Most musicians equate "solo" with introspection and self-seriousness ("This is the real me!" they always seem to say), but nothing about Rhythm and Repose suggests Hansard has been stashing these demos in his closest for two decades waiting to challenge his audience. In tone and approach it suggests the populism of a lost Cat Stevens classic ("High Hopes," in particular) but with enough interesting detours. "You Will Become" is dark and eerie, matching Hansard's ambivalent expression on the album cover. The rising hum of an organ lifts "Races" above the maudlin territory of your typical singer-songwriter love song. In retrospect, the success of Once isn't all that surprising; like any street performer, Hansard is always playing for an audience, not just himself.
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