Song of the Day #3,605: ‘Salton Sea’ – Josh Rouse

In this week’s Childish Gambino post, a commenter brought up the dilemma of having an under-appreciated favorite artist hit it big. You’re happy for his or her success, but you kind of liked being in on a secret.

I have two such favorite artists, both of whom I’ve adored for a decade and a half. And as much as I enjoy belonging to their exclusive fan bases, I have to say I’m ready for the world to give them the attention they deserve. One is Tift Merritt; the other is Josh Rouse.

Rouse has released a dozen albums over the past two decades and never sniffed a hit. Every one of those records is sublime and one (2005’s Nashville) would likely land on a list of my ten favorite albums of all-time.

Rouse’s newest release, Love in the Modern Age, is another stylistic departure for a man who has dabbled in pop, country, folk and world music. Here Rouse plants himself firmly in the 80s, trading in his acoustic guitar for synthesizers and saxophones. As always, he pulls it off.

Rouse channels Leonard Cohen on the album, spinning atmospheric yarns about the battle of the sexes and slipping into a gentle spoken-word growl on the title track. He even named one song ‘I’m Your Man.’

But if Rouse gave himself the musical challenge of crafting an 80s Leonard Cohen album, he still wound up with a sweetly melancholy modern Josh Rouse album. Like seemingly all of his songs, these tracks are made for rainy days. As my older daughter says, his songs make her “feel some kind of way.”

Me too. I wish the rest of the world would catch on.

Salton Sea
Where my love said she’d rather be with me
Salton, Salton Sea
It’s why my heart aches for a memory

She was desperate
I was not right
Packed an omnichord
And a flashlight
I got in the car
She drove all night
Oh to be
By the Salton Sea

And the rain came down
So we stopped outside that little Arizona town
And it all came clear to me
Why my life, just like the stormy sea
I’m too desperate for the quiet attack
She went upstairs; there was no fight
Just a longing for and a reason, oh to be
Oh to be
Oh to be
Oh to be
Like the Salton Sea
Salton Sea

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,605: ‘Salton Sea’ – Josh Rouse

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    While there may well be exceptions, it seems to me that if an artist doesn’t have a hit or widespread commercial success by the second or third album, it just is never going to happen. Indeed, even artists who had some commercial success and a hit early on are often not likely to reach that level again. Examples include Lyle Lovett, Ben Folds, Counting Crows, Fiona Apple, Elvis Costello, the indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, Aimee Mann and on and on. Even a huge artist like Bruce Springsteen has not had a top 10 song for decades. It really just shows how random and elusive commercial success can be.

    The good news is that all of the artists mentioned here, and many others, are able to make a living and sustain a career to reach at least a core group of dedicated fans.

  2. Peg Clifton says:

    I really like this song and agree with Sophie it makes me feel “some kind of way” 😊

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