My winding path to Matthew Ryan’s Dear Lover album

Matthew Ryan Dear Lover

I am sure it is not a secret, but most of you might know that I am a huge fan of Matthew Ryan.  How can I not when he is responsible for many of those late night hushed songs that just hit home for me.  He also (in my opinion) probably has the best voice for singing the music that he does – it is the perfect pitch, it has just enough gravel in it and just matches a dark corner of a smokey bar, in other words it is what I want to hear in practically any song released.

Well, when I first scanned through the new album, I have to admit that I was a bit underwhelmed.  What you say?  Yes, I thought it was “good” for someone else, but below Matthew Ryan standards for me.  Come on, this is the guy who has “Misundercould”, “Jane, I Still Feel The Same”, “I’m an American”, “Gone For Good” and “Everybody Always Leaves” and those are big tracks to live up to for anyone.  While I clearly don’t feel quite the same now as I did then, I do have a couple of reservations on a few songs, but overall it has really bloomed for me and has become a regular listen for the last part of 2009.

Firstly there are some more of my signature Ryan tracks with “Your Museum” and “The World Is…” which actually Ryan told me to listen to when he noticed a tweet about my hesitation with Dear Lover.  Well, when the guy himself tells you to take another listen, well…you listen.  The two songs are stand outs for me now and are joined with “Some Streets Lead Nowhere” which I believe was released last year originally but has been included on the new album.  These are the tracks where you can hear a song and feel a connection or just feel like someone is leaning in and telling you a story that you need to hear.  All analogies aside, they are what I define as Matthew Ryan, a slow paced, gritty voiced lament (my new favourite word) that you just want to put in your list of “go to” songs.

Well there is also another side to Ryan where he brings a bit more energy to his music – which is also very good as it also suits him (listen to tracks like The Wilderness & P.S.).  He truly is an artist that can belt out a rockin’ Americana style track and still hush the crowd immediately, one trait I enjoy in my favourite bands/artists.  What I have noticed in the last few years is Ryan has incorporated a bit of “electronic” assisting in his music (i.e. drum machine and keyboards).  “Electronic” may sound a bit much for what it actually is, but these days it is almost unavoidable when creating an album.  You can notice this in the title track (where it does work) and in what could be considered the two lead off tracks “City Life”, “We Are Snowmen” and then again in “Spark (featuring DJ Preach)” where I like the songs, but feel there is just too much of this sound.  I feel as if the songs might find their way to a car commercial or similar location with their use of drum machine induced cadence.  Not a bad thing most would think and I almost feel awkward saying it, they just seem a bit more late night Lincoln MKZ ad versus late night whiskey soaked ballad.  I can’t write them off as Ryan’s voice in each track still draws me in, it has to be a pretty bad track to make me not want to listen to this guy…

Well overall the album is well above many of its ilk and will be another feather in Ryan’s cap.  So if like me you hesitated, give it more listening time – it will become a mandatory listen very easily.  If you didn’t feel any pause, simply consider me a bit slow.

“Some Streets Lead Nowhere” – Matthew Ryan, from 2009’s “Dear Lover”
Bonus: “Jane, I Still Feel The Same” – Matthew Ryan, from his Daytrotter Session, Sept. 2008
Bonus #2 (side project): “If I Wanted You” – The Dead Satellites

Visit and Purchase Matthew Ryan.  Physical CD release slated for early 2010.

~Smansmith