Review: Glen Hansard brings familiar intensity to latest set
Glen Hansard, “This Wild Willing” (ANTI-Records)
A brooding intensity runs through much of Glen Hansard’s music, from his time with the Frames to the ambitious songcraft of “Once” to more mature compositions of recent years. It can leave you feeling like you’ve been cornered at a party by someone who has something important to say and won’t let you slip off to the kitchen.
That intensity surfaces again on Hansard’s fourth solo album, “This Wild Willing,” a rangy collection of experiments in musical exploration. His work demands that you listen with the same ferocity he brings to his playing and singing.
Several songs here start with a pulsating guitar or piano riff, swelling toward an explosive summit — perhaps most effectively on “Fool’s Game,” one of the album’s finer cuts. Make no mistake, this isn’t background music.
Repeatedly, Hansard reveals himself as a fearless, original thinker, and the daredevilry doesn’t always work. A couple of songs bear the burden of overwrought lyrics, the kind that call too much attention to themselves — like David Crosby at his navel-gazing worst.
But others are striking in their beauty. “Brother’s Keeper,” for example, features gentle, exploratory interplay between Hansard’s urgently appealing vocals and understated acoustic playing, a kind of jam-band mood piece.
The album’s closer, “Leave a Light,” is more gently cast, but it’s a gorgeous nod to Hansard’s Irish ancestors in folk balladry that seems built to last.
The common theme, again, is intensity. It’s worth the trouble not to turn away.