Josh Rouse, "Love In The Modern Age" (Yep Roc Records)
Josh Rouse says his new album was inspired by Leonard Cohen, The Blue Nile, 1980s Roxy Music and Prefab Sprout, but it's safe to say there's not much Queen on "Love In The Modern Age," if only because Freddie Mercury's band touted that "nobody played synthesizers" or some similar disclaimer on their early albums.
No need to get alarmed, however. Rouse hasn't gone The Postal Service on us, nor is he auditioning for a gig with Pet Shop Boys. Instead, Rouse uses the synths as songwriting resources, often giving them a lead role but with plenty of guitars and other accompaniment.
Recorded in Valencia, Spain, and in Nashville, Tennessee, as Rouse and his family were in the process of moving from the former to the latter, his twelfth album is a compact collection of cool, airy but caring songs about relationships in different stages of development or deterioration.
Opener "Salton Sea" is the album's bounciest tune, but the music's bright rays don't penetrate the lyrics, while "Hugs And Kisses" is the sun returning after the storm.
The title track, very much in The Blue Nile style, also true of "Businessman," is "for the lovers who stick with it" in times where "too many options, acquaintances" may prevent you from seeing the tree in the forest.
Closer "There Was A Time" has a Cohenesque feel — though it could be Richard Hawley, too — and the late Canadian bard may also be getting a wink with the title of "I'm Your Man." While Cohen was willing to do anything for his lover, Rouse's guy has been out carousing and sounds more provocative than committed — "Come and get me while you can."
Even modern loves have heartbeats, and Rouse has a delicate way of keeping his finger on the pulse.