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In his long-time band, the Frames, Glen Hansard mastered intense storytelling and powered-up folk rock.

In his even more successful and award-winning side project, the Swell Season, which grew out of the intensely romantic film Once with co-star and one-time lover Marketa Irglova, Hansard mastered intense personal tales and more sparingly arranged folk pop.

It will come as no surprise, then, that in his first solo album, Hansard is intense. And romantic. And sad. And intensely sad about the end of romance.

These songs, like many on the second Swell Season album, may well be about the emotional fallout from the end of his relationship with Irglova.

In the quietly dignified What Are We Gonna Do, an almost-duet with Irglova, he says, ”I don’t want to lose you/to some bullshit hurt that could have been helped … so what are we gonna do if we lose that fire?”

And if denial is in place in the next song, Races, where a dragging beat and slightly incongruous banjo underpin his declaration that ”I never left you/And you never let me go”, there’s some longer-view optimism in High Hope where he sings ”Maybe when we’ve both had some time/I’ll see you there”.

Those last two songs are somewhere between slow-burning folk pop and Irish soul.

That’s probably as expected but the album also has a strong strand of singer-songwriter styling more associated with early ’70s California: touches of slide guitar, mellow yet rhythmic pulses, swelling male harmonising and the air of a group confessional – easy but also intense.

Like this? Try: Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon; Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey.

Rhythm and Repose

Bernard Zuel

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