I first heard Josh Rouse via his 1972 album – that’s his album called 1972, not his album recorded in 1972.  Rouse was, in fact, born in 1972 so it would have been surprising, if not interesting, if he had recorded an album that year.

1972 did, though, capture in its songs and production a sense of the early Seventies.  In his new album Love In The Modern Age, Rouse is less specific about his reference points but the album’s production has traces of the late Eighties and early Nineties.  Opener Salton Sea recalls something that Prefab Sprout might have come up with, with added treatment on the vocals.  Love In The Modern Age is reminiscent of Richard Hayley’s gloomy romanticism while Businessman might have been essayed by a less melancholic Blue Nile.

These comparisons are just touchstones though; Rouse is a skilled enough songwriter to ensure that his own personality shines out of his songs. It’s interesting that for someone born in Nesbraska there is no American analogue to which these songs can be compared but perhaps if Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch had been born in the Cornhusker State rather than the West of Scotland, he might have come up with something similar.  It’s a very deliberate change of direction for Rouse after 2015’s The Embers Of Time, swapping that album’s acoustic guitars, harmonicas and pedal steels and generally downbeat tone  for synthesisers and saxophones. “I wanted to explore new sounds and write with a fresh backdrop”, Rouse has said and he has certainly done that.

At just under 35 minutes, Love In The Modern Age breezes in and out again before you know it but once you’ve given it a spin a few times you’ll find these songs sticking around in your head for a long time to come.

John Scott

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