ALBUM REVIEW: Scott Ryan – Object Permanence

Spokane-based alt-rocker Scott Ryan is back with a new EP and a new perspective.

It goes without saying that 2016 has been the year of surprises — some good, mostly bad. Scott Ryan is a good surprise. His new EP, Object Permanence, carries a shape-shifting, retro sound that covers more ground in five songs than most LPs cover in ten.

What’s fresh about Object Permanence is that “retro” doesn’t mean “vintage.” It’s not The Strokes simply recreating the tones of The Stooges or Vampire Weekend channeling the vibrancy of the Talking Heads. It’s more complex than that. Here, Ryan takes pieces of various genres from the past — psychedelic, funk, blues, pop, and indie — and in an impressive, almost encyclopedic fashion, somehow makes these into sounds his own.

The opening track, “Spent” is a bright, vibrant tune that blends pop-rock with a little funk and you can’t help but move your body. Not my favorite song on the album, but that’s because it’s not really my style. I can still respect it, however, for Ryan is a musician’s musician. Instrumentally, the music on this song and throughout the album is savvy and unapologetically technical.

“Perfectly Good Explanation” is also ambitious, both vocally and instrumentally. Clocking in at just under eight minutes, the song manages well to keep your attention (hard to accomplish in today’s culturally-busy society). As a Radiohead fan I can’t help but make comparisons to the tonal atmosphere of Hail to the Thief, as an enigmatic drum track balances a delicate falsetto with a wandering guitar lead. Simply put, “Perfectly Good Explanation” is really cool.

For my tastes, “Louise Louise” is the album’s standout track. It’s fun, brilliant and memorable, distilling all of Ryan’s strengths into one accessible pop tune. A record label would consider this a single, and maybe I’m just a sucker for singles, but this song has set up camp in my brain and won’t be leaving anytime soon. It’s one of my favorites of the year.

I asked Ryan what inspired him to write this tune, and he explained: “All of these songs were written in a time of financial turbulence. ‘Louise Louise’ is sort of about the ridiculous process you go through to apply and interview for jobs you don’t want. The enthusiasm you have to show in your cover letter, the experience on your resume, etc.” It’s a feeling many of us are familiar with, and perhaps that, along with his catchy keyboard, is why it resonates so well.

Object Permanence, ultimately, is a fun title for an album that you can’t quite pin down.

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For Ryan, the title speaks to more than the music, but to a personal, shifting perspective on life and faith — those little life transitions, within adulthood, that redirect your course in big ways. “Object permanence was an interesting concept to me as I went through some major changes,” Ryan explained. “Becoming a parent, moving from California back to the Pacific Northwest, a new job, new projects, new friends, etc.”

If channelled right, life change begets good art. With Object Permanence, Scott Ryan has channelled his art to become one of the most intriguing musical voices in Spokane and beyond. I’m excited to see what Scott Ryan does next.

Object Permanence is out now via Bandcamp

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