Following on the heals of his two previous solo albums - the haunting and nocturnal ‘If…’ and the acclaimed ‘A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart’ - Bill Ryder-Jones had to dig deep to arrive at the release of his third full length album.
For a while he was waylaid and off course. In his own words, “I wasn't writing things that were making me happy in the moment. I got lost a little bit in why I was doing it and as a result wasn't living in the most responsible way.” The slight straying resulted in the scrapping of an album’s worth of material, but also gave birth to ‘West Kirby County Primary’. As he says, “Some of the things that had happened to me during the making of that record, the one I eventually dropped, turned out to be interesting enough to make good songs out of!”
“Good” however, is all too modest. Ryder-Jones is back on his natural path and he’s produced something of a masterpiece – a collection of timeless songs that effortlessly cohere and transcend. The lyrics are intimate and seem deeply personal, yet at the same time they allow the listener to drift off into their own hazy introspection.
There’s a sense of honesty that runs through the album, as seen in the album opener ‘Tell Me You Don’t Love Me Watching’. In his low-key vocal style Ryder-Jones sings, “I always get my always in the end, you see I’m nothing but an only child, I get my own way every single time, so how dare you be anything less than all I need”.
Themes of bereavement, illness and struggling love are covered but make no mistake, this is far from a miserabilist work or in any way a depressing listen. Ryder-Jones takes everyday and profound subject matter and in marrying it to his music infuses the album with sun-tinged levity.
There is searing and soaring guitar work on singles ‘Two to Birkenhead’ and ‘Satellites’, whilst ‘Daniel’ and ‘Put It Down Before You Break It’ coast along on salt-breeze melodies.
To say the album bears repeated listening is an understatement. Having listened from beginning to end scores of times, it always retains its singular charm. Listen to it on a bus, train or plane; play it on repeat and it becomes a familiar companion. The type of friend you might not see for years, and then after two minutes reunited, it’s like you saw them yesterday.
That Ryder-Jones is able to capture and record an immutable sense of unfurling lives and human warmth is evidence of a rare talent. In an era that has heard much decrying of the death of the album, this is a perfect whole.
Words: Nick Rice
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