Review: Glen Hansard - Between Two Shores

Glen Hansard has always trodden a difficult line between rootsy authenticity and larger ambitions. The two sides of his artistic identity are clear in the way he downplays his world-conquering achievements while discussing his art with what many would dismiss as “notions.” It’s easy to see why he remains divisive in his home country: is he a purveyor of raw ballads of humane warmth, or a pretentious chancer?This album will not settle this debate, but with this collection of revived older songs Hansard is at his most direct and free-rolling. ‘Time Will Be the Healer’ is an unbearably graceful echo of the Swell Season song ‘I Have Loved You Wrong,’ while ‘Wreckless Heart’ soars with vulnerable majesty. Hansard’s voice is as affecting as ever, buoyed by deft production from the man himself.Nevertheless, there is no denying the patchy nature of the project. Hansard himself has admitted that the lyrics are too vague, and all of the musical paths here are well-worn. However, the inconsistencies reveal a fascinating undercurrent. Hansard’s lovers, often referred to as “woman” or “girl,” are always the instigators from whom he is “setting forth” and “movin’ on,” and their thin characterisation inadvertently says more about his own faults.This is the plaintive howl of a wolf who has been alone for so long that he can't bend himself into the right shape for another, and it feels almost too real. The title hints towards a feeling of transition, something which may bridge the disparity between ambition and humility in Hansard’s future projects. There is nothing more human than uncertainty.In a nutshell: An inconsistent collection of sweet, simple songs with a darkly bitter core.