Review: Josh Rouse – The Happiness Waltz
Published on June 3rd, 2013 | Jonny Abrams and Neil Currie
…on which the enduring Nebraskan singer/songwriter ushers back in the kind of lush, pedal-steel-assisted arrangements that characterised his mid-noughties albums Nashville, Subtítulo and Country Mouse City House. The Happiness Waltz is a comfort album par excellence, one you could conceivably luxuriate in all year round while continuing to pick delightful features out of its deceptively intricate Americana.
It’s tempting to describe “Simple Pleasure” as aptly titled but that might be doing its subtle majesty a disservice; it’s more tangential than its relatively sturdy chordal progressions might indicate, dynamically so, and therefore rewarding of repeated listens. As it reaches its conclusion, various jangly, twinkly elements converge into some sort of ornate gazebo of sound, which is not something we recall writing before. Hats off, then, to Josh Rouse for breathing new life into conventional forms through sheer expertise of his craft.
“It’s Good to Have You” falls into a more abrupt melodic layout, Rouse throwing in mentions of peppermint tea and it being “too cold to go outside” to ramp up the levels of cosiness. It’s a gorgeous, faintly jazzy little tune that reminds faintly of lesser-spotted Beach Boys classic “Busy Doin’ Nothin'”, graced as it is by flute and a wonderfully twisty twelve-string lead guitar line. “Won’t you tell a woman to bring some speed? / I can’t wait another minute to see those eyes” sings Rouse, presumably not hankering for amphetamines, at least not if his good-naturedly sophisticated pop and gentle lyricism are anything to go by.
The Happiness Waltz isn’t exactly original, but it’s all gorgeous stuff: the sublime harmonies and jangle of “City People City Things” bring to mind Steely Dan’s “BarryTown”, while the chorus of “Our Love” borrows from Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris”, going on to welcome aboard delicious swirls of flute reminiscent of another lesser-known Beach Boys classic, this time “Deirdre”. Factor in some staccato ‘jazz piano’ chords and Rouse’s breezy croon and no amount of reference points can make it any less irresistible. Simply put, it’s a timeless ode to being in love, the likes of which will always sound arresting when coming from the right place.
“Start Up a Family” consolidates the album’s lyrical themes while introducing it to a dancing harmonica solo, “The Western Isles” incorporates an ace, parpy brass section, and then it’s time for perhaps the loveliest of the lot: “Purple and Beige” is Bacharachian in its lushness, so alluring for the slight dissonance of its chords, instantly mesmerising as a whole. All of which leaves the soft, jazzy shuffle of the title track to see us on our way out of another glowing Josh Rouse record, waltzing off happily into the sunset. Classy stuff indeed.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
The Happiness Waltz is out now on Yep Roc Records.
For more information, please visit the official Josh Rouse website.