Glen Hansard, The Frames frontman and star of bittersweet, award-winning musical dramas The Commitments and Once – for which he and co-star/co-writer Marketa Irglova won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Song for Falling Slowly – returns this week with his third solo album, Between Two Shores.
The title of Hansard's latest album is inspired by his experiences taking part in Camino By Sea, a three-month expedition to row from Ireland to the Northern coast of Spain, and judging by this disjointed album, Hansard may still be a little lost at sea himself.
The album is made up of a collection of songs left over from previous sessions and home demos, revisited and polished into a record of little coherence other than letting us know that Hansard hasn't been lucky in love over the years, courtesy of songs with titles like Movin' On, Wreckless Heart, Your Heart's Not in it and Why Woman.
They're a perfectly passable selection of individual tunes, all in Hansard's usual guitar-toting-troubadour-with-heavy-brass-and-piano-backing style. His rough, powerful voice still has the ability to drag an average song to a higher level, and high points like the ethereal and maudlin One of Us Must Lose reach his previous heights.
But Hansard has established himself as something of a master songwriter and storyteller, both in his work with The Frames and in his previous solo work. Between Two Shores simply doesn't have that sense of a self-contained story.
If his Grammy-nominated previous solo album Didn't He Ramble was his novel, then Between Two Shores is more a collection of unrelated newspaper columns he's pushed out on account of a contractual obligation.
He possibly did ramble on the previous album, but it was an intimate, engaging ramble that made sense. Here, he seems to be phoning it in from his rowing boat.