Today has been weird. I feel like I’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in the past few hours and I’m honestly ready for a mental break from everything. Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t work like that. I am unable to just switch everything off but I figured, instead of getting depressed or worked up over it, I would channel that energy into reviewing some new music. Okay, I’m using the word “new” loosely here. ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ has been out for a few months but, for some reason, it has just never hit my speakers… until now.
“Only A Dream” kicks off this album in the best way possible. Ryan’s smooth voice comes in instantly with a very laid back instrumentation arrangement behind it. Any worries that were still lingering in my head were instantly gone as this track played through. It’s the perfect balance of a retro sound and modern feel. Usually, I have a lot to say about an opening track but I found myself just getting lost in this one so I apologize that I don’t have much to say.
As “Oh No” started playing throughout my house, it was clear that Ryan Hamilton & the Harlequin Ghosts do a very chill vibe oh so well. They make everything feel effortless without feeling overly simple. The lyrics of “Oh No” made this an instant favorite for me. There are so many nods to great musicians from the past. Everyone from Pink Floyd to Prince. It’s not just name dropping either. The way all of these musicians are mentioned is so creative and instantly reminded me of “Taxi Driver” by Gym Class Heroes. I was still busy trying to catch more mentions in “Oh No” as it was replaced by “Jesus & John Lenon”. As you can tell from the lyrical content of “Oh No” and then the title of this third track, Ryan Hamilton and his crew make it clear that they know their influences and aren’t afraid to call them out even though they may seem obvious. This creates a sense of appreciation that I whole-heartedly appreciated.
“Out of My League” starts off with a quick ditty on the piano so you know I was a sucker for this one. There’s a sense of swagger on this track that I didn’t hear on the previous three but absolutely loved and instantly wanted more of. Even with this newfound swagger, there’s something so easy and care-free about this track that had me just sitting back and swaying to the infectious beat. The energy that Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts can produce on a recording is impressive. It’s kind of a no-brainer that a song like “Out of My League” would have an energy to it but, even when things slow down for “Let’s Go Slow”, there’s still a sense of energy coming through.
Are you a fan of Aerosmith? If so, “Can I Get An Amen” is your track. It’s insane to me how Ryan can manipulate his voice while still being obviously him. This is a perfect example of that. His voice almost molds into an Aerosmith vibe to the point where it’s teetering into “cover band style” but he never lets it get that far. This adds a sense of familiarity to this album that, as someone who doesn’t typically listen to music like this, definitely helps add to the accessibility.
I instantly fell in love with “Don’t Fall Apart”. Honestly, this is the song I needed tonight. From the cool, calm, and collected slow song beat to the beautifully arranged words, this was my song and a stand out on this album for me. I don’t want to ruin all of the lyrics or anything on this one so I won’t say much more but the title kind of says it all so, if you’re having a difficult mental health day, I highly suggest putting this track on and just breathing.
Thankfully, the more somber nature of “Don’t Fall Apart” was replaced by a more upbeat track as “Newcastle Charm” comes in. There’s almost something pop-punk about this song. It reminded me a lot of “Stacy’s Mom” from Fountains of Wayne which is not a comparison I would have thought I would be making in this post. Just when I was debating grabbing the closest cat to dance with me, the mood shifts back to a more somber feeling for “Southern Accents”. Appropriately, I feel like Ryan’s voice showcases an almost southern drawl that I hadn’t heard previously. I wasn’t a huge fan of this Bob Dylan styled track but I get the appeal of it for someone who is more in that scene that I am.
“We Gave It Hell” keeps the emotion on high but it also comes off as a bit of a redemption song which is an element I will always love in a track. I feel like Ryan really solidifies his name in the stellar lyricist and songwriting category. I got lost in his words and, before I knew it, the final track “Pick Yourself Up” was taking over. This cozy song is the perfect ending to a beautiful album and also is a perfect follow up to “We Gave It Hell”. I feel like listening to these two final tracks back to back really tells a full story that must be heard in full to really get all of the juice out of both tracks.
There’s something old and familiar about Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts’ sound but also something new and modern. This entire album is a breath of fresh air and was just what I needed tonight.
My Favorite Track(s): “Oh No”; “Don’t Fall Apart”
For Fans Of: Retro sounds with a modern twist; Energy; Dancing
Dance-ability: 7 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Artie laid right next to my arms on my desk so blame any typos on him; Autumn slept upstairs
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 7 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 7 out of 10
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