Matthew Ryan: Dear Lover


"Why’s it get so quiet, when there’s so much to say?” sings Matthew Ryan on “City Life,” the opening song on his stellar new album, Dear Lover. The lyric is telling about this collection of songs: It’s not what we say to each other, it’s what we don’t say that is the glaring mystery. Silence is troubling and suffocating, and Ryan is a songwriter who knows a bit about that.
The songs on Dear Lover hint and marvel at instant beauty (“Your Museum”), discuss regret and disappearing moments (“Some Streets Lead Nowhere” and “We Are Snowmen”), capture the electricity and promise of future (“The Wilderness”), attack lurking darkness (“PS”), and strive to regain lost hope (“The World Is…” and “The End of a Ghost Story”). It’s the soundtrack to a life that is worrisome, slippery, noncommittal, and blindingly beautiful at the same time.
But as instant as the messages hit you, this is also an album full of experimental sonic pleasure. Ryan takes chances from the building energy of “City Life” to the frantic energy that D.J. Preach brings to “Spark;” each gesture serves an uncanny, unforced purpose, and the swirling landscape of sounds grow with each careful listen. (So, by all means, take your time.)

This is not a singer-songwriter getting wasted in front of a mirror. He’s looking at all of us, questioning what is real, frankly asking what we want. In many ways, Dear Lover is Matthew Ryan’s Blood on the Tracks with a familiar idiot wind trying desperately to sweep our dreams away. Only this time, we can still win if we open our hearts and mouths.

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