Matthew Ryan

From a Late Night High Rise

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On From a Late Night High Rise, Matthew Ryan continues the folk-tronica explorations that he experimented with on his previous outing Regret Over the Wires. This disc opens with some eerie electronic whirls before a fragile sounding piano introduces "Follow the Leader." The haunting soundscape matches the song's sense of dislocation as Ryan raspily intones: "If you ever really wanna get lost/Then follow me." The entire album finds Ryan chasing ghosts, the past, and missed opportunities. These songs grew out of two tragic events: the death of a close friend and the imprisonment of his brother. His grappling with grief can be heard throughout this soul-searching album. In the spare yet harrowing "Gone for Good," he tries to face the fact that he'll never see again someone who was close to him. The title of "Everybody Always Leaves" lays bare his feeling of abandonment while in "All Lit Up," he states: "I needed a spark/I needed it bad." Even when Ryan turns political, the song still feels deeply personal. "Babybird" offers a stinging indictment of consumer culture ("Martin Luther King and the Liberty Bell/Versus a Super Bowl ring of artifacts of hell") but it's balanced by his closing lines ("And if you wake up scared/I hope you're not alone"). What saves this disc from wallowing irretrievably in depression are the arrangements. "Everybody Always Leaves" moves along to some blippy synth beats while its bridge evokes "Lost in the Supermarket" (the Clash is one of Ryan's favorite bands). Tracks like "All Lit Up" and "Love Is the Silencer" also are bolstered by noisy guitar work. Ryan's musical growth from being an acoustic guitar-wielding Americana troubadour plays to his advantage here. The otherwise introspective "And Never Look Back" greatly benefits from its propulsive beat that recalls the '80s rock of bands like Echo & the Bunnymen and New Order. Another influence surfaces on his sole cover, the Grant McLennan/Steve Kilby tune "Providence," which seamlessly fits in with Ryan's originals. The album's closer, the heart-wrenching spoken word composition "The Complete Family," is a loving letter to his incarcerated brother. As the strings swell at the end, the listener hopes that Ryan will have a "complete family" again one day although disc's melancholic tone doesn't suggest this will happen. Still, this cathartic effort will hopefully help ease some of Ryan's pain, although there is no denying the album's emotional power. Ryan has opened his heart on this marvelous, moving disc and your heart goes out to him.

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