Album Reviews

Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung – Album Review

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Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung – Album Review by Killian Laher

Ryley Walker has been attracting a lot of attention with some fine songs, virtuoso live performances, and a sort of ‘no filter’ persona in conversation and online. Reminiscent perhaps of former enfant terrible Ryan Adams? His albums, however are tighter, more focused beasts with the emphasis on the songs and an old-fashioned track sequence that flows. His third album is less of a departure than was suggested in his interviews, he hasn’t strayed too far from a 60s prog-folk sound beloved of his influences. Only this time, more than ever, the music sounds very much like his own. The Halfwit In Me is as good an evocation of lazy, late summer evenings as you’ll hear this year. The intermeshed guitar play is less about complexity for complexity’s sake and more about texture and mood. It suits the relaxed feel of the song really well.

A pair of lengthy, nocturnal torch ballads dominate the middle of the album. The sparse piano blues of Funny Thing She Said provides a fine basis for Walker to sing and play guitar licks around to great effect, Sullen Mind keeps the looming spectre of Doors-style mysticism at bay (just), while dark sounding chords and percussion crash around to dramatic effect, finishing with a coda that builds to a crescendo.

The brief two-minutes of guitar picking that makes up I Will Ask You Twice acts a sort of palette cleanser before the second half of the album. Following this, the rolling, insistent guitars of The Roundabout provides one of the most accessible melodies on the album, overcoming some pretty odd lyrics (see below!) with slowburning folk that almost acts as a kind of a modern-day hymn. And that’s a lot better than that sounds! The slow, hesitant strum of The Great Undecided conjures up a gloriously lazy feel, while final track Age Old Tale is the longest, most epic track here. Opening with scratchy, ambient sounds, it develops into a dead slow, folky trudge towards the finish line. But even when Walker does this, it’s an exquisitely musical trudge, incorporating woodwind, strings and guitar.

Lyrically it’s pretty much gobbledygook with lines like “I could see you giving me a child” (Funny Thing She Said), “I only have a Christian education” (Sullen Mind), “Can I buy you a drink? My credit is quite s**t” (The Roundabout). But with music as strong as this, it matters less than it should. For all the accusations of being retro, it has more of a timeless feel. A prodigious talent like Ryley Walker is bound to come up with some kind of misstep at some point in his career. Until then, just enjoy a fine talent, and one of the best guitar albums of the year so far.

Track List:

1. The Halfwit In Me
2. A Choir Apart
3. Funny Thing She Said
4. Sullen Mind
5. I Will Ask You Twice
6. The Roundabout
7. The Great and Undecided
8. Age Old Tale

 

The Roundabout:

 

 

KL – No More Workhorse Playlist on Spotify.

 

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