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Album Review: El Turista by Josh Rouse

El Turista by Josh Rouse

Rating: ★★★★☆

If music could be mapped out on a temperature scale, Josh Rouse’s albums would be all over the place, with Under Cold Blue Stars and Nashville on the colder, more autumnal end and 1972 and Subtitulo bright and summery by comparison. If you had any doubts about where El Turista falls on the scale, look no further than the cover, which finds Rouse standing on a rocky coast, looking out at the sea while holding his hat to his head.

Josh Rouse’s career has found him slowly journeying from Nebraska to Tennessee and finally Spain. El Turista is his third album since the move abroad and the first one that really allows Spanish influences to take an active role in its overall sound. Of the album’s ten tracks, four are sung in Spanish, and even those that are in English draw on the influence of Rouse’s surroundings.

Just when Rouse was starting to fall into a pattern where much of his music sounded the same, he has managed to shake things up and diversify. The album opens with the bossa nova-tinged, orchestral “Bienvenido.” It is a short track that sounds like a remarkable piece of film music and flows perfectly into “Duerme.” Rouse keeps the laid-back feeling of the album going and sounds very comfortable singing in Spanish, as bright piano and percussion accompany him. Later, Rouse challenges himself even more on the uptempo “Valencia,” sung in the Catalan dialect (lisps and all).

“Lemon Tree,” which initially appeared on the fan only compilation Bedroom Classics, Vol. 3, appears here in a different arrangement with airy flutes and Spanish guitar. “I Will Live On Islands” is among the most upbeat of the album’s English language tracks, kicking off slowly with a jazzy electric guitar lead before breaking into a very danceable arrangement.

The temperature is warm and breezy on El Turista. That is, until you get the closing track “Don’t Act Tough,” which sounds like an outtake from the melancholy Nashville. Rouse has consistently been able to release solid albums that appease his fans. The difference with El Turista is that he’ll likely be able to attract new ones with a new approach.