Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Irrational Anthems by Ryan Dahle

Even if you don't know the name Ryan Dahle, there is a good chance you have heard something he had been a part of. Damn near everyone who was around in Vancouver in the 90s knows Age of Electric and/or Limblifter; or at the very least have heard a song or two from either. Both were seminal bands in the Vancouver scene and produced a multitude of hits. The common element to both bands were brothers Kurt and Ryan Dahle. With AoE breaking up in '99, the brothers put out one more Limblifter album together before Kurt went on to play with a little group you may have heard of... The New Pornographers. Since then, Ryan has released another Limblifter album in '04 with a new band, including Megan Bradfield & Patrick Steward, along with a multitude of different projects to keep busy. Collaborating with and backing for Matthew Good, playing with Jason Zumpano's Attics & Cellars and producing for bands like Hot Hot Heat (but we won't hold that against him, heh) and The Manvils. After years of more behind the scenes things, Ryan is ready to step back into the spotlight with the release of his first solo album, Irrational Anthems. He's joined by some other fine musicians, including Bradfield on bass & sometimes-vocals and brother Kurt on percussion.

The album opens with lead single "Chop Chop", which is instantly infectious and draws you in immediately. "Windmilling" and "Target Practice" both bring in the strings and start to show you the depth of the album. It continues with the mellow and somewhat minimalistic "Hya", which builds to a grand finish. "Shutdown" may be the most similar to the Limblifter of yore, as it brings the energy back up again with an almost erratic quality to it. "Sixes & Sevens" keeps up the energy before "Awfulizing", perhaps the most influenced by current music. It is the best showcase of Bradfield's vocals on the album and contains one of my favourite lines, "I spoke to my habits and they agreed to be hobbies"
"Agoraphobe" is a rerecording of a song he collaborated on with Matt Good, put out as a demo under Jack Pillowhead. I was slightly disappointed that Good was not on the album version, but every other aspect is a vast improvement, to make what is my favourite song of the album, Good or no Good. The gentle, sweeping songs continue with "Beta King Stilts", starting piano-y before building into a sweetly melodic number. "Eek, It's Hallowe'en" is whimsical and, yes, haunting, and leads into the musically beautiful -- and lyrically intriguing -- "Lion Piano", which ends the album with Dahle hinting at his lyrical depth by asking us "take my jokes seriously / don’t take my jokes seriously."

All of the best aspects of Dahle are on showcase here. His knack for both catchy hooks and sweeping songs; his ability to draw you in; and his great way with words & wordplay -- which has always been one of my favourite things about his songs. Irrational Anthems gives you a sense of familiarity, but not by sacrificing it's currency. Even though it still sounds like Ryan Dahle we all know & love, he's not just going to rest on the past, but keep exploring. People who are looking for a rehash of the 90s will probably be turned off by it (perhaps they should check out Crash Karma for some people stuck in their 90s phase). But fans of the band, or good songwriting in general, will be struck by this, and while it may take a few spins to really appreciate it, the album is definitely worth your time.


Download Awfulizing


Download Agoraphobe


Download Lion Piano

Clicky to exchange monies for music

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