A pleasant if undemanding album that asks little of the listener and gives little in return.
Josh Rouse spent the throes of the Covid-19 lockdowns in Spain where he, like so many during that time, conceived and recorded a new album – but unlike other artists, he was afforded a unique opportunity to perform the songs in a venue setting as his “Spanish band members” had purchased a small bar. Songs always have a different energy when performed, and it was this that made Rouse think again and remove some of the polished production and replace it with a laid back, relaxed quality instead.
The opener is ‘Apple of My Eye’, and it certainly falls in line with the relaxed ideology Rouse was going for – it’s an affably gentle introduction with a Spanish lilt. “Trying to find a soft way back to you / There was nothing I could do,” he croons in a manner that just manages to stay the right side away from easy listening. ‘City Dog’ is another untroubled, effortless track, this time considering the life of a mutt from the streets (“I will never know the life you had before / A white and brown stray, you are so kind”).
‘Hollow Moon’, in which Rouse looks for a fresh start, is a catchy standout that’s sure to please any of his faithful listeners with its breezy, rhythmic quality that even includes a hint of saxophone. ‘Waiting on the Blue’ is about seeing the simple goodness in life and the people around you. “Think I’ll go out this evening and have a drink / Maybe talk to a friend / Celebrate all our failures and make a toast / To what lies ahead,” Rouse muses warmly. “Another day, a smiling face / All the deals and the plots and the what we have nots / Won’t let ‘em turn our love into hate”.
On ‘She’s in LA’, Rouse slips into shoegaze territory with laid-back vocals atop of a heavy dose of slide guitar. “It is always Friday night / If you’re living in LA,” he laments casually, utterly unfazed. ‘The Lonely Postman’ sees him switch things up a bit, the unfailing pleasantness of the tracks making way for something a tad more snappy with a tinge of 50s rockabilly running through it. “Well I’m alright baby, alright now / I just needed someone to love me, honey,” he warbles, invoking a hint of the ghost of Buddy Holly. While ‘Indian Summer’ casts a mildly downbeat tone musically, the lyrics are all about hopeful dreaming of a future, even if it might never come to pass (“I can’t wait for the wind to blow me / I can’t wait for the night to stone me / It feels great when I look into the sky / I’ve been missing you so bad / […] That Indian Summer came and went so fast”).
“I’ve never been a good boy / Never stuck to the rules,” sings Rouse on ‘Stick Around’, but he’s not breaking too many rules with this thoroughly friendly natured album. Suffice to say, ‘Going Places’ is not as well travelled as it could be, feeling a little set in its ways at times, but the ambition Rouse has for exploring pastures new in his career is clear to see – he might just need a few more stamps on his passport before he can call himself truly well travelled.