“Rhythm and Repose” by Glen Hansard

Glen Hansard – Academy Award winning folk singer and songwriter – has embarked on his first solo project after working with acts like The Swell Season and The Frames. Hansard is ready to release his first solo album Rhythm and Repose on June 19 under Anti-Records.

Hansard’s last year and a half living in New York City, according to a recent press release, inspired Rhythm and Repose. With the help of producer Thomas Bartlett – who has previously worked with The National – the album is a sure-fire success. It features several musicians including Brad Albetta on bass, Ray Rizzo on drums, Nico Muhly and Rob Moose on strings, and several horn players from Bruce Springsteen’s band.

While the two had no relationship prior to this record*, the pairing of Hansard with Bartlett blossomed from the get-go. “I hadn’t planed to do a Glen Hansard record, even though, in a way, it had been in the back of my mind all along,” said Bartlett. Hansard initially met up with Bartlett at a small club in New York and played him a song or two off hand – from there the collaboration moved right into the studio.

Rhythm and Repose opens with “You Will Become” that eases you in to Hansard’s emotional soundscapes. His echoing voice ropes you as he sings, “You brought me one step closer to the heart of things/and we talked about everything till we laughed about it/Your honesty is nothing compared to what/you will become.” While this opening may lead listeners to think the album will revolve around dark themes of love and loss, that mood doesn’t last for long.

By the middle of the album when “High Hope” comes around, we see the raw, natural, and emotional vocals that Hansard is most famed for. His effortless talent is undeniable. When he sings “I’m gonna see you there/There. Where we can be natural./There,” Hansard’s screams and Cat Stevens influence are reverberating through the speakers.

Showing off the purity in his voice on piano-ballad “The Storm, It’s Coming,” Hansard doesn’t hold back. The effortlessness of his work is uncanny; Hansard is a standout contemporary folk artist in every way. His frequent comparisons to Bon Iver are recognizable in that regard, yet it’s beautiful to see how strongly Hansard stands on his own.

Hansard shows in Rhythm and Repose a great deal of range in himself as a singer as the album rises and falls from song to song; thus the album is appropriately titled for his first solo journey. Tracks like “Maybe Not Tonight” bring the swaying rhythm while “Song of Good Hope” brings the album to a close, stripped down in perfect repose.

The album art is simple and refined with an oil-painted portrait of Hansard – the brush strokes are reminiscent of how smoothly each track flows from one to the next. Depicted with an expression that doesn’t quite read contentment nor sorrow, the tracks on Rhythm and Repose are made up with just as many layers as there are of paint in the portrait.

This album should be listened to from beginning to end. Set time aside and simply let it play through. Hansard’s emotional and musically explorative journey deserves your full attention.

By Jeeyoon Kim

*Bartlett and Hansard have worked together on some of Bartlett’s own work such as The Conformist, but never on Hansard’s own material.

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