Glen Hansard: This Wild Willing
Since Glen Hansard got his start with Dublin heart-on-sleeve rockers The Frames in the ‘90s, and later through his hit-making partnership The Swell Season and as a solo artist, his aesthetic has largely hovered in the same corner of the music universe: lovely, lilting, mellow and melodic rock and open-mic folk. That’s why This Wild Willing is such an explosive surprise. The album finds Hansard writhing, kicking and furiously careening through the most challenging, intense, gripping songs of his career. It’s his most experimental effort ever and a stunning success. Hansard fans who arrived through the 2007 musical movie Once , in which he starred with his Swell Season ex, Markéta Irglová, should not fear: This Wild Willing certainly has a few beautifully tumbling, acoustic-folk tunes. “Brother’s Keeper” is gorgeous, wind-blown acoustic-and-piano folk. But even many of those tunes have a sinister undertone that’s new to Hansard: “Threading Water” could have come from Damien Rice’s darkest hours. Still, the treat here is Hansard’s openness to new sounds: Sense him dim the lights for the wriggling, Tom Waits-does-Nick Cave dirge “Race to the Bottom.” Feel the white-knuckle intensity as “Don’t Settle” catches fire, with horns blazing, pianos clattering, percussion pounding and Hansard screaming, “Come on, rise off your knees/ You’re not beaten yet/ No envy, no anger, no judgment on no one, lest you forget.” It’s tragedy, victory, struggle and triumph—a staggering high in an album full of them.