The vocals that Ryan starts out “From A Late Night High-Rise” are painful. “Follow The Leader” sounds as if Ryan has smoke twenty packs of cigarettes a day for fifty years. I might be exaggerating, but the contrast that eir vocals show against the slightly electronic instrumentation on the track is a little irking. The track would be stronger if Ryan did not force the vocals quite as much. While the introductory track is a little on the weak side, individuals will still be able to flock to Ryan’s side due to interesting and robust instrumentation present on the track. When the vocals take a back seat to the instrumentation, the resulting segment of the track stands head and shoulders above any other part of “Follow The Leader”.
“And Never Look Back” has a sound not quite unlike that created by The Cure during their “Wish” album. Ryan’s vocals lose some of the grit for this track, which makes the resulting track that much stronger. The interesting instrumentation during “And Never Look Back” give listeners yet another reason to focus on “From A Late Night High-Rise”. Ryan is settling in nicely by this track, and “Babybird” should be the track that reflects a new-found comfort. “Babybird” continues the electronic sequencing present in earlier tracks, as well as the interesting instrumentation that is such a hallmark of the tracks on Ryan. It just seems, with Ryan’s vocals, that ey is trying to maneuver eirself into a John Mellencamp style. The electronic-infused sound achieved by the instrumentation brings eir into the “Digital Ash”-era Conor Oberst, so what results is a style the touches a lot of current and past strains of music, but does not really go where it needs to go to succeed.
Individuals will get used to Ryan’s brand of vocals, but why would they want to do that when there are so many other individuals creating music that will be acceptable and liked right off of the bat? Matthew Ryan comes through time and time again with instrumentation that could easily be on a Counting Crows or a later-era Bon Jovi track, but the vocals struggle to fit in well with that music. “Babybird” is one of the tracks where both camps seem to be working well together, but examples of this are few and far between on “From A Late Night High-Rise”. Keep listening to Ryan, as something might impress in the future; avoid this album at the moment, though.
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Matthew Ryan – From A Late Night High-Rise / 2006 Plastic Violin / 12 Tracks / http://www.matthewryanonline.com / Reviewed 22 May 2007