TDP Review: Glen Hansard- “Drive All Night”

For fans of: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Mumford and Sons

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Widely known for his Academy Award and Oscar winning song “Falling Slowly” from the musical film Once, Glen Hansard does not compromise his lyrics or talent, even if stretched thin between many projects.  The Irish musician remains focused on the personal message within his melancholy songs.  He released his first solo album Rhythm and Repose in 2012, embracing an earthy and more traditional folk sound.  While the album reflected Hansard’s passion for his art in the heart wrenching, fan favorites, “High Hope” and “Bird of Sorrow,” it remained inconsistent.  Understandably, “repose” was in the name, therefore the inconsistency may have purposefully supported the distress within the lyrics.  Hansard’s new EP Drive All Night experiments more with the folk genre, rather than solely relying on traditional Irish folk music as its basis, creating a unique sound, while falling behind lyrically with its emphasis on failed relationships and excessive vulnerability.

The EP opens with a Bruce Springsteen classic, “Drive All Night,” in which Glen Hansard’s raspy voice mimics that of the original, while adding another layer of desperation and nods to Hansard’s usual style.  The inclusion of the saxophone is crisper than in Springsteen’s version, slightly modernizing, but not overpowering, the song with Hansard’s acoustic guitar.  The second song, “Pennies in the Fountain,” incorporates Spanish-style guitar fingering and classical piano to create drama and nostalgia.  Like many of Glen Hansard’s songs, “Pennies in the Fountain” is not lyrically long or abstract, but it manages to fit a self-explanatory poem within a four-minute composition through the impressive and expository instrumentals, a lot of which would be able to stand successfully even without vocal accompaniment.  With a prominent rhythm and a slight electronica influence, “Renata” is the liveliest song on Drive All Night.  It still, however, focuses on a narrator feeling inadequate and does not mature past Rhythm and Repose.  The final a capella song “Step Out Of The Shadows” returns to traditional folk music and includes a slight country inspiration.  Lyrically, it is the most different of the songs on the EP, with an optimistic perspective and a unique execution.

The EP, overall, evokes interest instrumentally, but only lyrically succeeds in one song.  To those who have enjoyed Drive All Night, I personally recommend the aforementioned musical film Once, in which Glen Hansard costars with Marketa Irglova, a Czech singer-songwriter whose light, silvery vocals combined with Hansard’s rougher and raspier ones create an incredible dynamic within the soundtrack.  Glen Hansard’s career and conception of The Frames, one of Ireland’s most influential bands, is sure of its message and style, yet leaves many critics agreeing that the artist should move on from his school-boy heartbreaks.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

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