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Ryan Power - "They Sell Doomsday" | Album Review


by Myles Dunhill (@MylesDunhill)

They Sell Doomsday is Vermont songwriter and producer, Ryan Power’s latest album on the NNA Tapes imprint and if you’re unfamiliar with his output this is definitely the best place to start. First off, Ryan’s brand of genre-hopping and seamlessly executed bedroom prog-pop is perfect brain food for any record collecting obsessive with multifarious taste. Spanning an entire musical odyssey over the course of its fifteen tracks, there is never a dull moment during its long running-time which is quite impressive. Not to mention the amount of artistry exhibited on these intricately constructed compositions which has resulted in an incredibly unique album filled with copious amounts of care-free jubilance and whimsical exploration.

Traversing musical terrain with a bevvy of reference points both old and new, though new in this sense attributed mostly to contemporary artists refracting the past, Ryan Power is an auditory voyager. From the opening number, one can easily hear the kind of skewed folk that wouldn’t seem too out of place on one of Gong’s earlier outings. While on the title track, a strong yacht rock current is introduced which will be heard again on many spots in the album mostly recalling Dent May’s schmaltzy chamber pop. Once the funk-switch gets flipped Ryan reaches appropriately dizzying heights which evoke Kevin Barnes’ labyrinthian levels of twisty songwriting like on the serpentining, "In a Tizzy". On the record’s stand-out piece, "Empty the Jewels," there’s an overflow of ideas referencing everything from ‘90s British indie stalwarts, Elbow and Super Furry Animals, to the kind of mutant disco notably dominated by Toro y Moi and MGMT’s recent output. 

Ryan’s vocals balance out his complex tracks utilizing an ethereal falsetto at times which conjures the glossy warble of an indie-pop outfit like The Ruby Suns. Along with his arid synth-work, both elements work in unison to provide the record with a lot of buoyancy. While maybe not as deep a crooner as someone like Jerry Paper, one of the easiest contemporaries to make comparisons to, a similar sense of easy-listening synth-pop permeates all of the dark corners of this work. Even while one-upping Bon Iver’s vocal deliveries on the track, "Lone Cry Wolf," its ending, reminiscent of a brilliant moment on Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, A True Star, provides even more ear candy for record collector geeks to drool over. 

Due to the overwhelming regurgitation of everyone from Ween, on tracks like "Pilot to Mouth," "Issues," and the country-tinged, "Yer Not Doin’ What You Should," to Kraftwerk, with synth-pads ripped right out of Tour de France on the track, "Lovely, Lovely, Lovely," to everyone in between, this kind of genre costuming might seem forced coming from anyone else, but there is a woozy cohesion at work on They Sell Doomsday. Ryan Power is someone that wears his record collection on his sleeve, however his personal voice and vision outshine everything else on display here. Given the framework in which he chooses to express his ideas, his adventures aren’t ones that inhabit the bargain bin at the local thrift store as much as they go beyond, past, present and future, revising history and manufacturing destiny like a modern-day time bandit.