Moving away from the therapeutic self-examinations of 2015's The Embers of Time, singer/songwriter Josh Rouse rides another sea change, this time inspired by the sophisti-pop elegance of early-'80s acts like the Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout, and the Style Council. Unlike many of their contemporaries at the time, those bands took a more poetic and introspective approach to songwriting, adding warmth and craft to what was frequently electronic-based pop music. Eschewing his typically organic nature, Rouse does the same on the sleek but affecting Love in the Modern Age. Led by the exquisitely detailed synth-led singles "Businessman" and "Salton Sea," the Spain-based Nebraskan expat crafts lush worlds populated by jet-lagged romantics and lonesome seekers, dishing out clever couplets like "She was desperate, I was not right, packed an omnichord and a flashlight." The travel-weary tone Rouse has carried throughout his career remains in full effect here, pressed into new shapes and moods but authentic to his ongoing narrative. As suggested by its title, Love in the Modern Age wrestles with feelings of detachment, celebrating the fearless romantics who persevere on the sax-adorned title cut, then coolly disengaging with the take-it-or-leave-it tone of "I'm Your Man." The overall production aesthetic is slick and appealingly moody, with the hint of a smile to reveal just how much fun Rouse is having dabbling in this sonic milieu. It's a welcome break after the heaviness of his previous outing and, with his smart pop songwriting and clear vocal delivery, the veteran singer takes quite easily to the role of new romantic bard.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger