The Ruby Suns

Fight Softly

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When you’re the only permanent member of a band, you reserve the right to dismiss your previous lineup and record an entire album by your lonesome. Such is the case with Ryan McPhun, whose third album under the Ruby Suns moniker is essentially a solo effort. Written, performed, and produced by the frontman himself, Fight Softly replaces the tropical flair of 2008’s Sea Lion with synthesizers and digital production. It’s the sound of a man and his computer, and any organic instruments that may have made the final cut are poked, prodded, and processed beyond recognition, resulting in electro-Afro soundscapes that have more in common with Animal Collective than the tribal folk of McPhun’s previous material. Yet despite the gadgetry that went into the album’s production, Fight Softly is still a sunny piece of work, filled with gorgeous pop melodies that are complex but rarely challenging. Like Le Loup’s Family or Yeasayer’s Odd Blood, it’s too different from the album that preceded it to warrant any real comparisons -- instead, it serves as a widening of the band’s catalog, a sign that Ryan McPhun can stretch his boundaries without sacrificing the melodies that have consistently rooted his songwriting.

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