William Ryan Key
Virtue


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
December 2nd, 2018 | 41 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Ryan Key at the peak of his craft.

When Ryan Key was fervently singing about the virtues and vices of growing up on Ocean Avenue, it would have been difficult to imagine him in any setting other than Yellowcard – a successful pop-punk outfit that had accrued a loyal, impassioned following. Key always felt like a natural fit in that scene, crafting music that embodied what it meant to be a teen/young adult struggling to make it in this world. Relationship issues, traveling/hometown angst, and the concept of family populated the majority of the band’s content spanning twenty years; this longevity allowed fans to not only follow Key’s lyrics like an unfolding story, but also to grow up with him. As he shared the joy of newfound love and the heartache of goodbye, many of us connected with him on a personal level.

So by the time Yellowcard – the band’s eponymous farewell – was released, it felt like the final chapter in some great story that we had all contributed to. With Key singing contently about family (“On these shelves I keep my family, in this bed I watch them fall asleep”), repairing severed friendships (“Could we forgive somehow could we let it rest in peace”), and finally identifying a sense of home (“I don’t have much that I can give to you, but I love the way you make me feel – like I’m at home and I am not alone”), it was the resolution we were all looking for…and that some of us were lucky enough to find for ourselves. Key could have quietly faded away at that moment while leaving behind one of the greatest legacies in pop-punk, but instead he chose to turn the page. As Thirteen initially showed us and Virtue now confirms, the next chapter of Key’s career is even braver and more beautiful than the first.

Although Yellowcard made William Ryan Key who he is today as a musician, there’s now little doubt that he’s fully shed his old pop-punk identity. Thirteen was exclusively acoustic, and some of the quickly strummed verses in ‘Vultures’ and ‘Form and Figure’ were good enough to recall the Either/Or era of Elliott Smith. That’s about as hefty a compliment that can be levied upon an acoustic singer/songwriter album, but Key earned such comparisons while still maintaining his recognizable vocal warmth and lyrical candidness.

Virtue continues down that path, while beautifully integrating new styles into his tightly woven formula. The title track ‘Virtue’ is joined by 80’s-influenced keyboard effects and cascading drums that would not have sounded out of place on Bon Iver’s ‘Perth’, a breathtaking vantage point that comes as a bit of a surprise two-thirds of the way through the EP. To boot, there’s a non-English spoken word outro that makes the moment sound even more thoughtful and worldly. The most astonishing departure, however, is ‘No More, No Less’, which features heavily autotuned vocals on top of an ambient/shoegaze soundscape. The song builds gradually until it concocts a haunting atmosphere that sounds like it could have been on the last album from the band Nothing. It’s an odd sensation to hear Ryan Key’s electronically altered vocals blend seamlessly into that kind of rich, textural ambience – but that’s where we are with Key, an artist who has developed well beyond expectations.

When Key stays within his acoustic wheelhouse, the results are every bit as stunning as they were on Thirteen. ‘The Bowery’ might exceed all previous efforts in that department, an inward-looking piece that features a lush blend of delicate piano notes, crystalline acoustic picking, and Key’s endearing vocal inflections as he poses the question, “Who do I think I am?” Key’s solo endeavor thus far has been distinctly focused on introspection and exploring vulnerability, a trait that ‘The Bowery’ exhibits in spades. ‘Mortar and Stone’ and ‘Downtown (Up North)’ fit the bill as well, with the former feeling cathartic and the latter being slightly more reflective/forlorn. Across the EP, there’s an admirable blend of the soft, familiar touch that we fell in love with on Thirteen and stepping stones to bolder, gutsier sounds.

Virtue is more than just a complementary EP to Key’s first 2018 installment; it’s proof that he has landed as a solo artist. His new sound is not one of three chord pop-punk tracks and heartache by the sea, but rather bare sounding, stripped-down ruminations. You can almost envision him relishing the seclusion, finding peace outside of the grand spotlight that was Yellowcard - or, as he seemingly sums up in ‘No More, No Less’ – “I found my home…I'll drift alone.” He has settled into a sweet spot of stunning acoustics and token experimentation, all bolstered by the sort of maturity and songwriting that only could have resulted from decades of professional refinement and personal growth. This is Ryan Key at the peak of his craft.



Recent reviews by this author
Exit North Book of Romance and DustVessel Queen of Golden Dogs
Molly Burch First FlowerMadeline Kenney Perfect Shapes
Aphex Twin CollapseFrog Whatever We Probably Already Had It
user ratings (26)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
related reviews

Thirteen


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
December 2nd 2018


28732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love solo Ryan even more than I did Yellowcard. Everything this man touches turns to gold.

Digging: Exit North - Book of Romance and Dust

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
December 2nd 2018


369 Comments


good review, gotta listen to his solo stuff

but I love the way you make me fee


typo in second paragraph. MY FEE FEES



SowingSeason
Moderator
December 2nd 2018


28732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, I missed that. If you liked any old acoustic Yellowcard tracks then you'll like his solo stuff. It's basically the same thing but his vocals and songwriting have improved massively.

onionbubs
December 2nd 2018


10228 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good write up, good ep. this stuff is phenomenal live

Digging: Alkaline Trio - Is This Thing Cursed?

Lucman
December 2nd 2018


1468 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Cannt wait to see Ryan really come into his own as a singer/songwriter. I feel the best is yet to come lads!

Digging: Rivers and Robots - Discovery

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 2nd 2018


28732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I kind of get that feeling too. I know I said this is him in peak form in my review but there's still clearly many avenues for him to branch out into a fuller/more diverse sound, and I really hope he continues to evolve (even though his evolution to this point exceeded my expectations).

3waycrash
December 3rd 2018


240 Comments


I've only listened to the new EP, but I really dig it. Really like the sounds/tones he's been exploring so far in his solo career. Feel like it's what I need musically following Yellowcard. Not in a fill-the-void type of way, but like a sense of growth and it matches where I am in life now. Real beautiful stuff.

Green Baron
December 3rd 2018


24347 Comments


William Patrick Corgan
William Ryan Key

osmark86
December 3rd 2018


8148 Comments


"I love solo Ryan even more than I did Yellowcard. Everything this man touches turns to gold."

c'mon now, that's the hype talking surely?

Digging: Marxthrone - A Blaze In The Western Sky

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 3rd 2018


28732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@3waycrash: Exactly. It's not super experimental or anything, but he's come so far as a songwriter/producer, this thing just shimmers.

@osmark86: a little bit of hype, but mostly the truth.

osmark86
December 3rd 2018


8148 Comments


HA! knew it was a case of the ol' hypotitis. you'll soon realize that YC is goat again.

QuinnObropta
December 3rd 2018


82 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Highkey better than Thirteen, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Awesome review as always. This gives me such a nice Christmassy vibe too

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 3rd 2018


28732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

They're about equal to me. I think the melodies on Thirteen are slightly more memorable but this EP is more creative.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
December 3rd 2018


23931 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"No More, No Less" is just awesome

TheWonderSoFar
December 3rd 2018


2732 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is a nice little listen. Nothing more, nothing less. No More, No Less is the clear highlight for me and the only track I feel rises above merely being pleasant to listen to. I sense an imminent bump to a 3.5, due to how phenomenal the aforementioned track is, but not much else.



Edit: also gained a little extra love for the t/t, bumping to 3.5

ItsTheSquirrel
December 3rd 2018


128 Comments


Damn how do pump out quality reviews so fast

Digging: Denzel Curry - TA13OO

ProjectFreak
December 3rd 2018


3201 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah this is great. I still love the vulnerability of Old Friends off Thirteen, but this is so dynamic. t/t, Mortar and Stone and No More No Less are all excellent

blastOFFitsPARTYtime
December 3rd 2018


1735 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is niiiiiiiiiiiice

joshieboy
December 3rd 2018


6036 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Will listen to this asap.

Zeiu
December 3rd 2018


228 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice, we're bound to get a full album right?



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy