By Geoffrey Himes
Friday, November 30, 2012
Matthew Ryan takes a risk on his new album, “In the Dusk of Everything.” The Americana cult figure gambles that he can hold his listeners’ focus with the most minimalist of verbal and musical materials. On the song “I Hate Everyone,” for example, 16 of the 22 lines are repetitions of this couplet: “I hate everyone / But you,” sung in a whispery baritone backed by little but sustaining organ chords and a clinking drum loop.
There’s something about the intensity of Ryan’s quiet plea to his lover that grabs one’s attention on first listen. But is it enough to sustain a second or third listen? That depends on how much one can allow atmosphere to substitute for narrative and rhythmic movement. The musical weather conjured may be stationary but also is all-enveloping. Ryan’s voice gives melancholy a gorgeous tone, and David Ricketts, half of the ’80s new-wave duo David & David, supplements Ryan’s acoustic guitar with cello, bass, percussion and keys.
The songs are mostly about women who have departed or haven’t fully committed. “I don’t care if you want me now,” Ryan sings, “it’s too late.” “She’s a sparrow,” he sings of another, “and I’m a street, and I’ll watch her float away.” Another song is titled “It Always Rains When You Miss Her.” Ryan may be the meteorologist of heartbreak, but he’s not delivering any news.