Over twenty years in the making, Glen Hansard’s debut solo album is well worth the long wait. It opens boldly with ‘You Will Become’, a haunting track full of echoing harmonies and enticing subtleties. Plucking at your heartstrings, the lyrics and composition prepare the listener for an album full of darkness and sorrow. ‘Maybe Not Tonight’ follows smoothly, Hansard’s husky vocals hinting at a lighter tone, while ‘Talking With Wolves’ ups the tempo significantly.
By the time ‘High Hope’ rolls around, it’s clear that despite the melancholic undertones of the opening track, this album is one, not of darkness, but of light. Hansard celebrates life with every effortless note, the good times and the bad. Both wistful and yearning, the tracks also pervade a sense of warmth and completion. A paradox it may be, but such is life. ‘Bird Of Sorrow’, a certain highlight, is a slow and simmering ballad that showcases Hansard’s range and intensity, demonstrating a clear Cat Stevens influence. ‘The Storm, It’s Coming’ is similarly emotive and excellently structured while ‘What Are We Gonna Do’ keeps the consistency of well thought-out chord sequences and purity of voice.
There’s no doubt about it, Hansard can still make the rafters shake, but he has grown increasingly sparing in his intensity, looking frequently towards the slow burn. Unlike the majority of artists who boast large and expressive voices, he often lets his songs simmer to a stop without giving in to a cathartic release along the way. Flowing seamlessly from track to track, Rhythm and Repose is an album that contains pure talent and raw, emotional connection. Not bad for a first attempt.