The Ruby Suns
Album Review: "Fight Softly"
Pretty but unkempt, the Ruby Suns' new album, "Fight Softly," has a just-woke-up feel. The album's blend of low-tech electronica, sunshine-pop harmonies and African- and Caribbean-inspired riffs emits plenty of charm. Still, a little more coherence wouldn't hurt.
In the studio, the Ruby Suns are simply New Zealander Ryan McPhun. He wrote, produced and played almost everything on "Fight Softly," his third album. (On the road, he's joined by drummer Alistair Deverick and bassist Graham Panther.) Although it continues in the wispy, woozy vein of McPhun's previous work, this set punctuates the easygoing melodies and casual sonic collages with synthetic loops, beats and effects. (The intro to "Olympics on Pot," for example, could be the Pet Shop Boys.) Some of these additions come on a little too strong, unbalancing the already-teetering material.
Messy as this music is periodically, it seems to suit McPhun's outlook.
"I'll find time/To do what I want/Whatever that is," he sings in "Closet Astrologer." And the vagueness of some passages can provide an effective contrast, as when the meandering first half of "Cranberry" yields to an irresistible Afropop rhythm and chorus. McPhun may not know what he wants the Ruby Sons to do, but listening to him entertain the possibilities can be quite agreeable.
-- Mark Jenkins, Weekend (March 2010)