The first solo outing from Frames leader and Swell Season co-conspirator Glenn Hansard doubles down on the prolific Irish singer/songwriter's penchant for crafting soulful, slow burn ballads that ache like the sliced-open underbelly of a terminally swollen rain cloud. Inspired by a year-and-a-half stint as a denizen of New York City, as well as his breakup with Swell Season partner Markéta Irglová, the 11-track Rhythm and Repose is as lonely and pained as the face that graces its cover. Hansard's wounded Cat Stevens-esque cadence serves as an excellent bad news delivery system, especially on the sparse piano- and string-laden "The Storm, It's Coming" and the tense, brooding opener "You Will Become," but even the upbeat "Love Don't Leave Me Waiting," with its mid-'70s, blue-eyed soul shuffle and shimmery, Spanish guitar noodling, feels rooted in sleepless, pre-dawn anxiety. There are moments ("High Hope," "Bird of Sorrow") on Rhythm and Repose where Hansard uses the confessional singer/songwriter trope as a front for a much more primal process, allowing songs the room to smoke and sizzle before tossing in the gas can in a fit of explosive melodrama that suggests some of the finer moments from the Frames, but overall, it's a pretty somber affair, conjuring up images of humid, ashtray-filled midnights spent gazing out of a tenth story window, contemplating whether or not the fall would kill or just cripple you.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger