Ambitious new release Pin Up Queens & Silver Screens sparkles
Many words have been written about Ryan Oyer in the past few years, more than a few of them by me. For that reason I’m not going to dwell too much on the man.
If you haven’t heard of him by now, I’ll just say that he’s extremely talented, dedicated and very likable. Last week, he released his latest album, and by all accounts the release party and the album are proving to be his greatest and most ambitious to date.
Pin Up Queens & Silver Screens is the name of the album. There are 15 tracks and minus “Intro,” and “Intermission,” most focus on love and relationships. That may seem like well-tilled soil already, but there are two points to consider about Oyer’s choice of subject matter.
The first is best expressed by Mark Twain: “My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. (Fortunately) everybody drinks water.” Love and relationships are relatable to virtually everyone on some level.
The second point is that it’s fine to do something that’s been done before, even if it’s been done a lot, so long as you can do it well. On that count Oyer is at the head of the class. By tackling subject matter that has been explored so often by so many, Oyer has set himself an even harder target to hit and yet manages to do so flawlessly.
His songs are so well written, so honest and sincere and so beautifully executed that they are a genuine pleasure to hear, no matter how jaded you may be. Put simply, Oyer has mastered the form.
Songs like “St. Cecilia” and “When She Comes Around” reinforce the assertion that Oyer has been greatly influenced by the Beatles (particularly their mid-to-later work) but there is so much more to this album. “Hold On Love,” from its wailing harmonica to its plaintive vocals, could be Tom Petty (if Tom didn’t sing through his nose quite so much) but then the lead guitar (my favorite on the album) is about as Dark Side of the Moon as you can get without being Pink Floyd.
Stylistically Oyer reminds me of Damien Rice, and maybe a significantly less depressed Elliott Smith.
“Hollywood” is a bluesy sort of jam that is every bit as bad-ass and wonderful as the lady for whom it was written, phenomenally talented local tattoo artist Christine Bordeaux. I asked Oyer about that and he admitted, yes, it was about Christine and that he wrote it after she agreed to appear on the cover of the album.
His ability to capture an actual, specific person in song so well tempts me to ask him to write a song about me, were I not so sure it would be comprised mainly of circus noises and Looney Tunes sound effects (and probably a Sousaphone.)
If I had 1,500 words of space to fill I still couldn’t begin to give a song-by-song breakdown of the album. It is richly produced, covers a great deal of territory, yet manages to do so subtly and seamlessly. Oyer has written and recorded powerful music in the past, but this is his (for the time being) magnum opus, the pinnacle of everything he has done so far.
He got by with a little help from his friends, too. Some of the best-known names in the area guest star on this album, including the wizard/musician Danimal Pinson, Butch Ross, Tiffany Taylor and Megan Howard (to name a few).
Credit to Oyer and Ross (with a tip of the hat to Mike McDade) for the superb production work—all the more impressive considering the inclusion of a full ensemble, including horns, strings and what sounds like a concertina to me.
Mixing an album this complex must be a Gordian knot in the studio, yet the loving attention to detail rings true in every track.
The album is Pin Up Queens & Silver Screens and it is Oyer’s best work to date. Believe me, kids, that’s saying a lot. It’s available now, so grab yourself a copy and, should the opportunity arise, do what you must to go hear it live.