Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ryan Ferguson - Only Trying To Help

Ryan Ferguson - Only Trying To Help
Label - Better Looking Records
Release Date - August 21, 2007

A lot of bands try and cultivate their image to be that of traveling minstrels. I hate when bands do that. A lot of indie bands have vocalists that deliver their lines very flatly. I hate when bands do that. Ryan Ferguson does both of these things. I love Ryan Ferguson. The San Diego songwriter appears minstrel-like, but it isn't forced. His vocals are often slightly monotone, but he doesn't sound pretentious when he does it. His newest album, Only Trying To Help is refreshing because of this.

The album begins with the jangly chords of "Remission," and metaphors of surgery guide the listener through the tinkling keys and fairly forceful vocals. With a few well placed "whoa-o's," Ferguson has my full attention. The hooks are subtle and the melodies enjoyable while the the lyrics are deceptively dark. The stuttering guitars on "X's And O's" underline the sadness of the words.

never a big fan of fiction / I think I'm converting just to serve this fantasy of mine / no ink in my last pen / you've dried it out with run-on sentences / she's writing now with dark lipstick / engraving x's and o's in my head

"Kill My Confidence" is the album's lead single, and it's got a rollicking chorus that will stick in your head for days, complete with choral backup vocals and perfectly arranged keyboard flourishes. The music takes a dark turn in "Introduction." There are ominous strings sections, and the verses are chanted rather than sung. However, the tunes turn light again with "Future Reservations," going so far as to recall the likes of Death Cab For Cutie. Ferguson also evokes The Shins with the instrumentals on "In The Sea," but his vocal delivery is more along the lines of Straylight Run.

"Must Be Friday Night" is a highlight on the album. It begins with light guitars and choir vocals before giving way to Ferguson's plaintive voice, and building up with more and more instruments and voices as the song progresses.

The album closes with the expansive "And I Worry," where Ferguson's listed instruments include "guitars, vocals, bass, piano, percussion, nonsense," and Chris Prescott is noted as "mallet master." Overall, the album is fresh and enjoyable. It somehow manages to take all of the things I hate about indie rock and mold it into something I can love.

Track Listing
01. Remission
02. X's And O's *
03. Kill My Confidence *
04. Introduction
05. Future Reservation
06. The Impostor
07. In The Sea
08. Better Off
09. Not On My Watch
10. Must Be Friday Night *
11. And I Worry *

* - standout tracks

For Fans Of: No Knife, Pinback, Matt Costa

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