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Glen Hansard - Rhythm & Repose Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.5
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 8.5
Production 8.5
Creativity 8.5
Lasting Value 8.5
Reviewer Tilt 8.5
Final Verdict: 85%
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Glen Hansard - Rhythm & Repose

Reviewed by: Craig Manning (08/07/12)
Glen Hansard - Rhythm & Repose
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Record Label: ANTI-


It was hard not to love Once, the 2007 musical film that starred folk duo The Swell Season (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová) and spawned the massively popular, Oscar-winning theme song “Falling Slowly.” For me, that film was the most personal piece of a tremendous year in film and music, and right from the first frame, I was enraptured. I can still see that scene in my head, a simple opening cut that centers upon Hansard himself, strumming his guitar in the middle of a Dublin street, crooning softly at first, and then suddenly exploding into a fireball of visceral emotion. Five years later, that song, “Say It To Me Now,” remains the most representative slice of Hansard’s discography: honest, heart-on-your-sleeve folk that feels calm, right up until the moment its singer lets loose completely. Since Once made him into a borderline folk superstar, Hansard has only made one other record (2009’s Strict Joy), but his music and his character have also lent themselves to a Tony award-winning musical (the Broadway adaptation of Once swept the awards in June), and he’s practically become a household name.

But the fame hasn’t come without a price: brought together by the songs and the honesty of their onscreen portrayals, Hansard and Irglová fell in love for real, a romance that was put to the test by a grueling world tour, and one that listeners could hear fracturing, in real time, on Strict Joy. The two held their artistic partnership together regardless, not willing to sacrifice the intense and intimate musical connection they have shared, but if the songs on Rhythm & Repose are any indication, the ghost of what was – and what could have been – still wears on Hansard.

Hansard has been in the game for over 20 years: he served as frontman for Irish folk-rock act The Frames before joining up with Irglová in 2006, but even with nearly a dozen albums under his belt, he’s never released anything on his own until now. The result is one of his best albums to date, fueled by regret and lingering heartbreak, and hits every cornerstone of the sound that audiences fell in love with during Once. In spirit, Irglová is still here too, lurking in the dark crevices of the most bombastic moments or coming to the forefront during the sparsest ones. The haunting opener, “You Will Become,” is a dedication to her and to the love the two shared together, and it serves as an entrancing hook for an album that never lets go. “We talked about talk of a gold ring/When you brought me one step closer to the heart of things,” Hansard sings during the song’s second verse, reminiscing about his lost relationship with a woman who is now married to someone else. It’s strikingly restrained, almost minimalistic in scope, but it hits hard regardless; it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Hansard’s music has always been balanced between bruising emotional crescendos (“Leave”) and frail moments of heartbreak (“In These Arms”). Here, he opts mostly for the latter, building an album on atmosphere and mood rather than on emotional fireworks. That’s not a bad thing, since it lends a deliberate pacing to the record that has been absent on previous efforts, allowing Hansard to build slowly to the grand emotional peaks. Producer Thomas Bartlett wisely keeps the focus on Glen’s vulnerable voice, but he never allows Rhythm & Repose to become a simple voice-and-guitar exercise either, drenching songs in ambient instrumentation that only make them more magnetic. A repetitive electronic blip plays through “Talking with Wolves,” while faux-organ chords provide the context for “Races” before drums and banjo enter halfway through to flesh things out. Hansard and Bartlett fill in the rest of the gaps with cold piano lines, organic backup vocals, subtle string sections, and even blistering guitar solos. All of it combines to turn Hansard’s slow-burn songwriting into spectacle, giving songs like the George Harrison flavored “Maybe Not Tonight” (complete with a sweeping slide guitar) or the jazz-tinged pop of “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” their heartbeats.

But while the care Hansard and Bartlett took in the studio is evident, the best moments on Rhythm & Repose would stand up equally well in their barest, most stripped down format. We watch a relationship dissolve before our eyes on “What Are We Gonna Do,” set to a backdrop of sparse acoustic chords and a haunting dance of strings, and when a female vocalist joins Hansard for the final verse, it’s the ghost of Irglová that immediately comes to mind. “What are we gonna do if that fire goes out?” asks the song’s conclusion, where Hansard’s wounds still feel fresh. The same can be said about the few moments when he really lets his voice go, like at the conclusion of “Bird of Sorrow,” where broken shouts of “I’m not leaving” overwhelm the texture, or “High Hope,” whose climax is nothing short of transcendent. As Hansard’s voice begins to strain and crack, it takes me back to the first time I ever heard his music, to the cathartic emotive force of “Say It To Me Now” and the way it hit me like a ton of bricks. Aside from Damien Rice, there’s no one in today’s music industry who sings with such utter conviction, with such emotional investment, or with such reckless abandon, and it’s these moments that make Glen Hansard such a treasure. That they come in the middle of a record that ebbs and flows with love, heartbreak, restraint, regret, and resignation, without a single weak point, only makes me adore them more.

8.5/10

Additional InformationTrack Listing:

1. You Will Become
2. Maybe Not Tonight
3. Talking with the Wolves
4. High Hope
5. Bird of Sorrow
6. The Storm, It's Coming
7. Love Don't Leave Me Waiting
8. What Are We Gonna Do
9. Races
10. Philander
11. Song of Good Hope

Produced by: Thomas Bartlett

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Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 24
05:59 PM on 08/07/12
#2
DJWildefire
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Great review. One of the best I've read on here. Love this album as well.
06:37 PM on 08/07/12
#3
Craig Manning
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Great review. One of the best I've read on here. Love this album as well.
Thanks man, I appreciate it a lot. This album is terrific: took awhile for it to "click" with me, partially because it doesn't strike me as "summer" music at all, but it's been hitting me in all the right ways recently.
07:18 AM on 08/08/12
#4
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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It is definitely not a summer album. But hot damn if it isn't something. Great review. Very well done. What a monster of an album. God, he's amazing.
08:12 AM on 08/08/12
#5
Craig Manning
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It is definitely not a summer album. But hot damn if it isn't something. Great review. Very well done. What a monster of an album. God, he's amazing.
Thanks! The first half of this album is near-perfect. I think it loses a little bit of steam towards the end ("Races" and "Philander" are both good, but definitely the weak points), but it's still so, so good overall. Very likely going to end up in my top ten.

I love the way he uses violin on this record. So modern and haunting.

Also, it broke my heart when I saw you'd already claimed the new Wallflowers for review. But I'm looking forward to hearing it and reading your thoughts.
09:17 AM on 08/08/12
#6
Ferrari333SP
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Favorite song from this album isn't from this version; it's from the 14-track version. "This Gift" is so powerful; so well put together that song.
09:46 AM on 08/08/12
#7
Craig Manning
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Favorite song from this album isn't from this version; it's from the 14-track version. "This Gift" is so powerful; so well put together that song.
I completely forgot there was a deluxe version, but I'll put that on my list of things to track down immediately. There's his version of the song Maroon 5 did on The Hunger Games soundtrack too, right?
09:51 AM on 08/08/12
#8
Ferrari333SP
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I completely forgot there was a deluxe version, but I'll put that on my list of things to track down immediately. There's his version of the song Maroon 5 did on The Hunger Games soundtrack too, right?
It's on Spotify to check out; that's where I'm listening to it right now. And "Come Away To The Water" is on there as well.
09:53 AM on 08/08/12
#9
Craig Manning
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It's on Spotify to check out; that's where I'm listening to it right now. And "Come Away To The Water" is on there as well.
Sweet, I'll give it a listen later. Thanks.
09:59 AM on 08/08/12
DJWildefire
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"Philander" is one of my favorite songs from this record. Do agree that it loses some steam towards the end though.
10:32 AM on 08/08/12
a speedo model
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Great review. I need to check this out, been meaning to for weeks. Good job.
11:31 AM on 08/08/12
georgedcc
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Great review. I need to check this out, heard lots of good things.
01:19 PM on 08/08/12
OnaedInSpace
she sucked and sucked and sucked.
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Thanks! The first half of this album is near-perfect. I think it loses a little bit of steam towards the end ("Races" and "Philander" are both good, but definitely the weak points), but it's still so, so good overall. Very likely going to end up in my top ten.

I love the way he uses violin on this record. So modern and haunting.

Also, it broke my heart when I saw you'd already claimed the new Wallflowers for review. But I'm looking forward to hearing it and reading your thoughts.
I really enjoyed this review. You have a great command of the actual material, background knowledge and the English language as a whole. You also name dropped Damien Rice which leads me to ask, are you Irish?

Are you a fan of The Frames?
01:45 PM on 08/08/12
Craig Manning
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I really enjoyed this review. You have a great command of the actual material, background knowledge and the English language as a whole. You also name dropped Damien Rice which leads me to ask, are you Irish?

Are you a fan of The Frames?
Haha, thanks a lot! I appreciate any comments.

I am not Irish, I've just been a big fan of Damien since O came out, and Hansard has always reminded me of him in a lot of ways.

I'm not familiar with all of The Frames material, but what I've heard I like a lot. Their most recent record (The Cost) was terrific, and offered a very different take on "Falling Slowly." What are their best albums?
01:49 PM on 08/08/12
Craig Manning
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"Philander" is one of my favorite songs from this record. Do agree that it loses some steam towards the end though.

"Philander" is cool, it just doesn't strike me as much as stuff like "You Will Become" or "High Hope."

Great review. I need to check this out, been meaning to for weeks. Good job.

Great review. I need to check this out, heard lots of good things.

Thanks a lot guys. Obviously, I highly recommend it.
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