In his past projects, Hansard wrote most of the music. Here he finally gets sole billing for a new batch of restrained what-went-wrong songs, but without the slow burns to purges of wailed angst that's set his career apart.
There are exceptions. "Bird of Sorrow" plinks around on a piano before Hansard rips "I'm not leaving" to rattle the slow ballad. "High Hope" delivers a more satisfying scream-a-long. "What Are We Gonna Do" is a quiet chiller on an album that includes Marketa Irglova, Hansard's "Once" co-star and sidekick in The Swell Season.
Hansard tours the U.S. later this year with Eddie Vedder, whose own recent solo album after 20 years fronting Pearl Jam was a ukulele-strumming getaway from his day job. But Hansard's still on the clock. As the former Dublin street busker reminisces in the country downer "Maybe Not Tonight," this first solo plunge is merely echoes of another time.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "You Will Become" is a tense opener with an acoustic march capped over and over with a bassy and buzzing pluck of Hansard's top guitar string. It taps the brakes just as it ramps up, a sign of what's to come for the next hour.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)