Josh Rouse: El Turista

RIYL: Paul Simon, your Brazilian grandfather’s record collection

When Josh Rouse moved to Spain a few years ago, nobody really expected things to change with regard to his music career. After all, there are many jobs that can be done from anywhere these days, with touring recording artist being one of them. But along the way, Rouse met and married a Spanish woman, singer Paz Suay, and along with learning to speak Spanish fluently, he also began writing songs in his new home’s language. That’s all well and good, but on his latest, El Turista, Rouse took things a step further by incorporating Brazilian and even Afro-Cuban flavors to the music, including a couple of covers. The entire set also reflects Rouse’s desire to lean toward jazz, without becoming a full-on jazz artist. The result? A mediocre experiment.

There is nothing wrong with trying new things, but the problem with Rouse’s recent musical offerings are that he’s been writing too much – causing his songs to become diluted, at least compared to the stuff he was making in his hometown of Nebraska and in Nashville. It’s not just that, but Rouse is better at the alt-pop thing than he is at the Bossa Nova sound he’s aspiring to, and El Turista is, well, it’s sleep-inducing. That said, dude still has a super smooth voice. The best track on here is the English-speaking “Lemon Tree,” and if you’re in the mood to drink a pina colada and start a conga line, put on the festive “Valencia.” However, if you were/are a fan of Rouse’s earlier material, you may want to run the other way before giving El Turista a listen. (Bedroom Classics/Nettwerk 2010)

Josh Rouse MySpace Page


Yonlu: A Society in Which No Tear is Shed is Inconceivably Mediocre

Imagine what the early 21st century bedroom recordings of a depressed Brazilian teenager with a penchant for quietly direct songs about his frayed state of mind, a delicate but confident touch on acoustic guitar, a talent for artful overdubbing and an affinity for the occasionally off-beat multi-part musical, and that’s Yonlu, a/k/a Vinicius Gageiro Marques, in a nutshell. Yonlu created the 14 songs herein all alone, in his studio, sharing them only with his online friends and fans until his suicide in 2006 at the age of sixteen. Though his tragic story would naturally draw in listeners, the music itself transcends his short lifespan – his voice was steady and tuneful, whether in English or his native Portuguese, spinning delicate and pristine performances in the mold of Elliott Smith and Nick Drake, but always informed by his Brazilian heritage. Songs like “Humiliation” and “Suicide” are maddening in their blatant foreshadowing, but “Katie Don’t Be Depressed” beats ‘em all. The pointed line he sang to the subject is exactly what the sympathetic listener will be feeling upon hearing this collection lonely aural postcards – “seriously now, what the fuck?” But for all the words he wrote, Yonlu’s most poignant statement remains “Waterfall.” A wordless melody sung over acoustic guitar, the tune soars with heartbreaking beauty like a lost Milton Nascimento demo, answering in one way the question “why is there suffering in the world?” (Luaka Bop 2009)

Yonlu MySpace


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