Glen Hansard – This Wild Willing
Folk | Alternative
This has got to be one of the most challenging records to review that I have come across these past few years, as it manages to both delight and frustrate me. If you had presented this album to me and told me it was by some new artist then I would have placed it comfortably within my top albums of the year. If you had then told me it was actually Glen Hansard my response would simply be “What? Where!?”. Somehow with This Wild Willing Glen often manages to fade into the background on his own album. Those familiar with his work will know of his passionate performances, the way he pours his very heart and to soul into the song as he sings. With the exception of the closing moments of ‘Don’t Settle’ there’s little of that to be found here, his vocals are generally hushed and restrained throughout. I’m all for artists trying new things, but in this instance he seems to be actively playing against his strengths.
It’s the music that makes this record something worth experiencing. The menacing post punk vibes of ‘I’ll Be You, Be Me’, the glorious heavenly climax of ‘Fools Game’, and the autumnal folk of ‘Mary’ reminiscent of Nick Drake. Each track is so layered and nuanced that you could listen for a hundred times and still find something new. The best examples however are the Eastern inspired ‘Race To The Bottom’ and ‘The Closing Door’. There’s something equally mystical and sinister about them. Listening to them is like walking through an ancient, gnarled forest, acutely aware that your surroundings are humming with life and unseen eyes are watching as you pass by. It’s some of the most unusual and entrancing folk music I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a shame that Glen’s latest release feels like a triumph in spite of him, rather than because of him. It would be interesting to hear a more impassioned take on some of these tracks, but as it stands it’s still a fascinating listen if you give it chance to grow on you.