Volume and bluster be damned. A whisper always delivers more of an emotional haymaker, whether employed for pillow talk, halting confessions, or final farewells. Matthew Ryan’s hushed rasp, with words catching like vows destined to be broken, is one of modern music’s most potent whispers.
Working at home while reeling from the incarceration of his brother and the death of a friend, Ryan has conjured a stripped-down musical setting that perfectly complements his delivery, with vocals occasionally accompanied by nothing more than a processed throb, a rudimentary drumbeat, and a handful of piano notes falling like a cooling rain. The acoustic guitar and harmonica setting of “Gone For Good” represents the album’s one truly organic interlude. When things do get a little louder and busier on “And Never Look Back” and “Love Is A Silencer” (the former driven by what sounds like a pastiche of the core riffs from a half-dozen synth-pop gems), the results positively roar out of the speakers. In the kingdom of whispers, your indoor voice becomes a shout.
A line from “The Complete Family”, the scarred-soul, one-sided conversation with his brother that closes the album, finds Ryan describing Roy Orbison’s voice as being “all falsetto and loneliness.” Well sir, you might find yourself thinking, yours is not exactly all hugs and high fives. And then there’s this opening from the cleverly titled “Misundercould”: “You get one shot to prove that you’re not just another chump.” Ryan’s been a contender since turning heads with his debut Mayday. This one represents another bout won. It’s a quiet, subdued victory, though, a technical knockout.