By: Derek Jung
Ryley Walker's 2015 sophomore album Primrose Green was an eye opener for me in so many ways. The jazzy, acoustic folk was unfamiliar territory for me, and I welcomed it with open arms and eager ears. The title track even made my 2015 list of Favorite Songs. The Chicago native returned again last week with his third full length, and a noticeable bump in production and songwriting has only solidified him as an artist worth paying attention to.
Walker's ability to create immersive songs through complex, multi-part song structures is fantastic, and his skillful guitar playing only adds to this fact. Lead single "The Halfwit in Me" immediately showcases the progressive folk that has endeared him to so many fans around the world. Later on, "Sullen Mind" explodes midway into an expansive masterpiece of sonic genius. This song in particular is the full band performance that I've been waiting for from Walker. The drumming, additional guitar, and what sounds like a vibraphone build wave after wave until the finale. On a more subdued note, "The Roundabout" is one of the best lyrical showcases on the album, I loved the verse "And I'd buy you a drink / My credit is quite shit / We can all laugh / And have tap water". It's funny, clever, and a little self-deprecating all at the same time.
There's no denying that Walker is a skilled songwriter. His wordplay and storytelling are top notch, but one of the weak spots on the album is Walker's vocal performance, which gets a bit monotonous. While his singing style has never been stellar, I really enjoyed songs like "Summer Dress" on Primrose Green that really pushed his singing to the limits. On this album, however, I don't hear him taking the same vocal risks.
If you're looking for a musically and lyrically complex album to enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon, this album would be a great place to start.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.