Glen Hansard: Rhythm and Repose
American audiences are probably most familiar with Glen Hansard through his starring turn in the film Once and his musical output with costar Marketa Irglova in The Swell Season. However, the troubadour’s background stretches far further back, including decades as frontman of the rock band The Frames and frequent collaborator with many other Irish musicians.
In this first solo effort, Hansard is able to explore different musical avenues. Rhythm and Repose is a gentler, quieter album than most material by The Frames (save perhaps 2006’s The Cost), but it contains more intensity and flexibility than either record by The Swell Season.
As a former busker who hasn’t given up all street performances yet, Hansard knows exactly when to sing softly and when to belt out his lyrics without restraint. The most powerful songs on the album, “High Hope” and “Bird of Sorrow,” feature Hansard pushing his voice to the limit. Producer Thomas Bartlett, also a musician known as Doveman, deserves credit for not cleaning up the mix or demanding a neater take. It’s this raw delivery that makes Hansard a consummate performer, and to hear that on a studio album is a rare gift from any artist.
Much of Rhythm and Repose is quiet and acoustic, but do not underestimate this album. Love, loss, and longing feature prominently in the lyrics, but there is much more encouragement than Hansard’s usual writing. The closing track, “Song of Good Hope,” even goes so far as to say, “It’s not as bad as it seems.” Not all fans will appreciate this gentler output, but in my view, Hansard has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and his writing has only benefitted. If you don’t believe me, try to keep a dry eye through “The Storm, It’s Coming.”