Glen Hansard, “This Wild Willing” (Anti-)
At this point in his career, there is a Glen Hansard sound.
Whether it is with his rock band the Frames, his more acoustic duo the Swell Season or as a solo artist, a Hansard song is going to be well-crafted, likely emotional and usually closer to acoustic than not, much in the way his songs for “Once,” both the movie and the musical, became so memorable. But not on his new album.
This time, Hansard allows his creativity to wander much more than it has in the past and he has assembled plenty of interesting traveling companions. The classically trained Iranian-born Khoshravesh brothers appear throughout the album, offering a Middle Eastern influence beneath Hansard’s Irish storytelling. Irish electronic artists Dunk Murphy and Deasy pop up occasionally to shake up a song’s foundation. And when they — along with a team of musicians playing everything from accordions and bouzoukis to the daf, a Middle Eastern frame drum — improvise some sort of magic, the results are as unshakable as Hansard screaming, “Say it to me now!”
The single “Fool’s Game” builds slowly, especially in the instrumental interludes, as Hansard sings a wary risk-reward analysis of falling in love. “It’s a speeding train beating through the pouring rain,” he describes the relationship, before the six-minute epic combusts in an orchestral explosion of beauty, “with no way to slow or stop it, and the tracks are broken.”
The power of “Good Life of Song” is how Hansard’s vocals and delivery take the song in one, more expected, direction and the lovely, confounding orchestration goes in another, eventually winning out. Even in the more straightforward moments of “This Wild Willing,” like the melancholy, Eddie Vedder-esque “Who’s Gonna Be Your Baby Now,” Hansard offers little surprises that never fail to delight.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Joey DeFrancesco, “In the Key of the Universe” (Mack Avenue)
Leave it to this lion of the Hammond B-3 organ to bring soul and innovation to jazz’s most ignored solo instrument. The onetime Miles Davis band member spent 2018 in the company of Van Morrison with several bluesy albums. On his own album, DeFrancesco finds his head in the clouds and his inner vision focused on the astral planes of free jazz.
The organist maintains a love of spacious harmony as a composer. Funky and free, “It Swung Wide Open” is an aptly titled epic in which drummer Billy Hart gets his chance to shine brightest and bash hardest. Still, nothing is as impressive as the meeting between DeFrancesco’s oozing, open organ tones and the living master of jazz’s spirited saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders on “And So It Is,” sounding like a cross between a lovers’ quarrel and a chattily conversational tea party.
a.d. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Lizzo, “Cuz I Love You”
• Cage the Elephant, “Social Cues”
• Jade Bird, “Jade Bird”
• O’Jays, “The Last Word”
• Sad Planets, “Akron, Ohio”