Country Mouse, City House

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This guy's been putting out a steady stream of intelligent continental soft pop, the kind of perfect party background music that doesn't intrude on anybody's personal space but rather swirls around the contours of one's head like a comfortable pillow. And on even closer investigation, you'll find Rouse singing funny lyrics, such as "I wanna die in a car crash, in the back of a New York City cab," only to recant later in the song that he has too much to live for and, what's worse, the cab driver's "got an attitude."

Somewhere, somebody ruined the term "easy listening" for the rest of us by insulting the listener's intelligence with banal greeting card sentiments and dullard arrangements. Rouse always has something extra going on underneath his limited but engaging almost talk-sung delivery — an insinuating pedal steel, a Synclavier or a gentle mellotron or horn section. He may remind some of Paul Simon, especially on "Hollywood Bass Player," a bouncy travelogue that hops from Manhattan to Paris where "The French didn't want me around, they didn't like my groove," and finally to Hollywood, each time sweating out that it's his last chance to get it right. You'll also find him and girlfriend Paz Suey (together, they recently released an irresistible five-song EP titled She's Spanish, I'm American) dueting on a song that offers the greatest soft-focus snapshot of a slowly disintegrating relationship since Rupert Holmes' "The Piña Colada Song." When a song with lyrical truths such as "Domesticated lovers never know they're fighting" comes on the stereo, you squirm. Unless the rot has already set in.

Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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