The Best of the Rykodisc Years

by: Josh Rouse

Listening to this collection of tracks taken from his years recording for Rykodisc (1998-2005), it's plain that Josh Rouse arrived fully formed. From his first release (1998's Dressed Up Like Nebraska), he was already a thoughtful writer with a heartbreakingly intimate voice and the unfailing ability to wrap his melancholy in warm and sweet melodies. He made some very fine albums over the seven-year stretch and The Best of the Rykodisc Years selects three or four songs from each. The progression from album to album is slight but noticeable. Starting off on Nebraska, Rouse seems earnest and slightly restrained, but by the time of 2003's 1972 Rouse was feeling frisky enough to drop the stunningly poppy and pretty goofy "Love Vibration." His next album, 2005's Nashville, will probably go down as his masterpiece and the four songs here make a case for Rouse as one of the foremost practitioners of intelligent and adult, but also sweet and teenage, pop of his era. If disc one presents a strong over view of Josh Rouse, disc two of the collection presents enough rarities to send Rouse fans into fits of joy. It gathers up all the tracks from the 2001 EP Bedroom Classics, Vol. 1 (which includes a lovely, stripped-back version of "Sad Eyes," a track that later showed up on Nashville) and seven demos and previously released outtakes. It also includes a previously heard outtake, "Princess of the Porch," which was part of a rarities disc released with The Smooth Sounds of Josh Rouse DVD. If Ryko had added all the tracks from this disc two, it would have been an unbeatable package. As it stands, though, it works both as an intro to the heartwarming sound of Josh Rouse and as a collector's item. ~ Tim Sendra

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