New York Daily News

For once, he quietly succeeds

- JIM FARBER jfarber@nydailynew­ (Glen Hansard headlines Le Poisson Rouge Thursday and the Beacon Theater on Friday.)

Glen Hansard based his entire success on keeping things small. In his breakthrou­gh work — the indie flick-turned-Broadway musical “Once” — he sketched a bare love story, told with a tiny cast, who sang simple songs at close range.

The high-concept modesty of it wound up setting off a Cinderella story that just won’t quit. The keynote song from the movie, “Falling Slowly,” bagged an Oscar in 2007, while the stage version just ran off with eight Tonys, including Best Musical.

It all sounds nice but was Hansard’s performanc­e in “Once” really as low-key and intimate as hype would have it?

Only if you consider Ethel Merman low-key and intimate.

In fact, Hansard’s performanc­e in the movie often found him singing floridly and shrill enough to win a part in an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical extravagan­za. He mewled in ways that showed more strain than sincerity. And when it became enough to overpower the co-star he meant to woo (Marketa Irglova), it could make you cower.

In that context, Hansard’s new album, “Rhythm and Repose,” provides thrilling relief. Finally, it makes good on the advertised closeness of the star’s most commercial work. It’s tender in a way that flatters Hansard like no release of his long career.

Though the Irish songwriter came to the public’s attention only five years ago, he’s been making more animated albums with his band the Frames since 1991. He also released work with “Once’s” Irglova under the rubric the Swell Season.

The new CD — the first to be released under his own name — performs the highest function of a solo album. It brings us closer to the artist’s heart. It has a consistent lyrical theme: the future, including ruminatati­ons on all the hopes and fears it holds. To delineate both poles, Hansard has written his most luscious melodies to date. “Maybe Not Tonight” has the dreamy grace of West Coast ’60s folk-rock, suggesting the magic of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.” “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” undulates with some of the Celtic-R&B mystery of “Into the Mystic” by Hansard’s hero Van Morrison, while “High Hope” has comforting twinges of American country.

The arrangemen­ts splay strings tensely around Hansard’s flinty guitar and muted piano. The orchestrat­ions lend a hint of chamber pop.

But the most redemptive tempering can be found in Hansard’s vocals. He keeps his voice trusting and hushed, flattering a timbre that can recall the manly scratch of Cat Stevens. Only in three brief sections does Hansard slip up and scream, which invariably sounds stagy and distractin­g. In the rest, he proves that for him, the quieter the better.

 ??  ?? Glen Hansard ponders the future
on his solo CD.
Glen Hansard ponders the future on his solo CD.
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