Ryan Oyer and company craft a near perfect EP, to the surprise of no one
When I first came to Chattanooga over two decades ago, one of my first jobs was with a landscaping company. The fellow I worked with most of the time once said to me that the real shame with what we did is that few people stuck with the job long enough to see their efforts reach fruition. Put another way, when we did an installation, it was attractive enough from the get-go, but it would be years before it finally became what it was going to be.
He was right about that, I only stayed there for a summer, but to this day there are a few houses up on the mountain I drive by from time to time and I see the now massive fruit trees and hedge walls that were twigs and shrubs when I helped put them there twenty plus years ago.
Now I write about music and though I am exposed to a tremendous amount of it, sadly I see a lot of bands come and go. Often these are bands with great potential that somehow just have a short shelf-life. More often than not, they go belly up just as things are getting good.
Then there’s Ryan Oyer.
Ryan is the project you get to see from start to finish, an artist I’ve had the privilege of watching go from “really good” to “even better” and on to “simply the best.” I’ve written about the man and his band several times now, and why not? He consistently produces fresh, new, original music; a prolific songwriter who has surrounded himself with a handpicked lot of some of the best musicians the area has to offer.
The latest and greatest treasure from the man and his band is the EP So Far So Good, slated for release on Friday, Sep. 23rd at Granfalloon. It’s six tracks long, features the efforts of Oyer, Megan Howard, Kelsey Stevenson, Stephanie Brooks, Matt Shigekawa, Mike McDade, and Todd Garland. Before we even touch on the depth of the songs, it should be noted that this is one of the best sounding releases of the year due in no small part to the artistry of Brett Nolan at the Soundry and Charles Alison at Spanner Sound.
The only real complaint about the EP is that it’s an EP, coming in at six songs beginning to end. Whether by design, or happy accident, the result is that the disc leaves one wanting for more.
The title track, “So Far So Good,” is classic Oyer times ten, with smart, poppy lyrics, neat guitar licks, interesting chord changes and beautiful strings backing the track. There is here, as there often is, an unmistakable Beatle’s flavor that has become one of Oyer’s trademarks. The instrumental balance in the tune is masterful.
Where it would be so easy to overdo it and wind up with a bit of a pretty mess, the band uses a light touch and deft strokes to create a paradoxically minimalist tune using a very broad palette. Restraint is the mark of a professional and Ryan and company are pros to the core.
“Gypsy’s Song” is a slow, minor tune that makes great use of overlapping male and female vocals reminiscent of Nick Cave’s “Where the Wild Roses Grow” duet with Kylie Minogue. Here again, the strings add an element to the tune that bridges the gap between “really good” and “excellent”; a Romany touch for a Gypsy tune.
“Miles Away” is a dreamy road tune, beautifully orchestrated and beautifully written, the delicate interplay of instruments is pure gossamer. For all that Ryan deserves credit for his marvelous writing, there is no doubt that the band itself is absolutely essential to the success of the work. What I mean to say is that this is less “a guy and a backing band” than it is a group of seven excellent musicians working together like organic clockwork to produce some of the finest material available.
There are three more tunes on the EP, tunes I choose to leave to the listener to discover, but suffice it to say that Oyer and friends have once raised the bar for themselves and by all indicators will continue to do so, though it hardly seems possible.
The EP is currently available for pre-order on iTunes and through Oyer.com