Uta Hagen--

"We must overcome the notion that we must be regular...it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ryan Simpson ~ Closing Doors

So in just shy of a year, I have made two blog posts.  Both have referenced Ryan Simpson, one of them being a review of his album, Free of Shackles.  And, at the risk of acquiring a restraining order, this is another album review for the lovely Ryan Simpson's new album Closing Doors.  I will first start out by saying that I have waited (very impatiently) for this album since Ryan started recording in October 2013.  I have begged and pleaded for its release and any spoilers I could get my grubby little hands on.  And, because he's my friend or because he's afraid of me (I still haven't decided which), he graciously kept me semi-satisfied until he released it May 16th. 

Since I purchased my copy of the album, I have listened to nothing else (which is a small lie now as Ryan kind of took forever to put the digital version online).  Any spare moment I've had, his music has been playing.  It is playing as I type this.  He has "sung me to sleep" every night since I downloaded it onto my iPod and has woken me up every morning while I'm getting ready.  Which sounds a lot creepier than it is.  My point is that I am completely and utterly obsessed and in love with this album (this, however, is still fact).  I have been bursting at the seams to share my thoughts and adoration for this album, but I wanted to wait until he had the digital version up for download so that I could link to it. SO CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD CLOSING DOORS!!  (p.s. the digital version is only $5!!) 

Ryan Simpson's potential could be clearly seen in his first album, Free of Shackles.  I loved it and was very proud of him for it, but to see how much he has grown as an artist and a musician in such a short time has completely amazed me.  If I loved FoS, I am in awe of Closing Doors.  (He has also cut back on the profanity so I can now play it more freely and share it with more people without having to check if small children are around. ;) ) I am so incredibly proud of Ryan and I promise you that this review is not me trying to kiss his butt or boost his ego.  He's already my friend so I have no reason to do that.  The opinions expressed here are my true and honest opinions.  

Overall Impression:
Having been going crazy with anticipation practically since I "met" him (the album has been in the works since before then, but he started recording in October), I was a little worried that I was too excited and would be let down.  But the other, rational, parts of me remembered that I'd heard "Lullaby Rain" when he put it on Sound Cloud in January and was amazed, and that I knew Ryan and he wasn't the kind of person to do anything half-way.  It was surreal finally getting to listen, I remember I was too excited to press play.  But I quickly got over that and listened to the album in its entirety in one sitting late that night.  Overall, I was impressed.  He has grown so much in such a short amount of time and I am truly proud of him.  From an outside perspective, I would say that his songs are chilling, passionate, and heartbreaking, if a little dark.  I would urge you to purchase this album.  I said that Free of Shackles was the best $10 I'd ever spent, but I think I may stand corrected now. (I paid $10 because I got a hard copy.  Both Free of Shackles and Closing Doors are only $5 for the digital versions now!!) 
**Oh, and by the way, this album, again, is all Ryan.  He wrote, composed, and recorded everything on this CD himself (with the exception of "Rotten;" see below).  Just gonna leave that there.**

*Again, as always, these opinions are my own.  If you don't want "spoilers," do not continue to read.*

"Gaze Into the Lens"
"Have you read the news today? Far and wide the voices cry through the camera lens, we roam and run, but cannot hide."
This song took me awhile to fully grasp.  Ryan had specifically built up a lot of anticipation about this song.  It gives me chills to know how true this song is.  It's a song about government surveillance, a subject that far too many of us are willing and content to overlook.  I chose the lyrics above to highlight the song because it absolutely freaked me out.  In my English class this year we did a unit on government surveillance in relation to Hamlet and that was what I kept thinking about with this song.  I know I keep saying that this song gave me chills, but I don't know how else to describe this song.  It's scary to me how much we, as a society, have become content to let slide.  But that is neither here nor now. 

"Lullaby Rain"
"My heart is racing as I struggle to stay sane and I pretend I'll be okay and I listen to the lullaby rain as it dances on the rooftop I hear it sing your name."
Where do I begin with this song?  I feel like I have neglected it since I got the album because I listened to it so many times when he released it back in January.  I love this song.  As you listen, it's like you can feel the rain and the storm brewing. It's absolutely fantastically heartbreaking.  The lyrics paint a vivid picture, something I've always admired Ryan Simpson for is his ability to use words effectively.  I love the way this song progresses, as if the persona is getting stronger and, perhaps, even moving on from this heartbreak.  Oh, and there's thunder in this song.  Can we just take a moment to appreciate this?  

"A Company of Isolation"
"I stand before the mirror resigned to my fate that one day I'm gonna pack it in, but, for now, I'm gonna keep on living."
This song is my life.  I want to just quote all of it, but it's far better heard than read.  I had a hard time choosing my favorite lines to put here, but I chose the ones above because they empower me each time I hear Ryan belt them out.  This song is the first song of Ryan's that has ever made me cry the first time I heard it.  Some of his songs from FoS now have that affect on me, but because they have come to mean certain things to me.  But this song gives me hope.  Some nights you don't see the point of going forward, some nights you feel like you have nothing and no one left.  But you have to keep rowing (Yeah, I just connected this song to "Viet Song."  I'm sorry, it's my favorite.).  Ryan's vocals in this song also truly impressed me.  The lyrics that I have quoted above are belted out in such an empowering and passionate way that it makes me believe the words.  I also was blessed to hear Ryan play this song live and acoustic and he truly impressed me with it.

"Punish Me"
"Wipe that smile off your face, it's too late to change what you've become. The song is sung, I'm over this charade, you've punished me enough for today."
I. Love. This. Song.  Okay, so I love most of them.  But this one is fantastic and so totally perfect. It so perfectly describes that relationship (in whatever capacity) that we've all had where the other person changes so much that you can hardly see in them the person you grew to care for.  It hurts you and it (pardon my French) pisses you off because you know they're too far gone to ever come back to you.  Life changes people - other things change people - and it's not always for the better.  "Punish Me" is about that.  And it's just perfect.  

"Just breathe my baby, come to my arms, don't speak, let me hold you, I will never let you leave."
By far the creepiest thing Ryan Simpson has ever done.  He knows this, I'm not being a jerk.  This song is just dark and disturbing.  It's still beautiful, but wowza.  The song is rather long and a good portion of it is instrumental, which usually isn't my favorite thing in the world, but it works with this song.  The song continues to progress and the music tells a story of its own - there are also sound effects in there that are hauntingly amazing.  It works, really well.  This is the type of love story you want to avoid, just in case you were wondering.  In the case of this song, the girl won't let go of the guy and because of that he cannot continue to live - whether that's physically or figuratively is up to you. 

"No Clear Divide"
"There's no clear divide between us after all, nothing left to hide it's written on the wall. You can't reach the highest peak without a fall. There's no clear divide between us after all."
If I had to pick a favorite song on this album, this one would probably be tied very closely with "A Company of Isolation."  If Ryan were to release a single from the album, this would probably be my pick.  It sounds like something you would hear on the radio (and Ryan, that's not meant as an insult :P ).  It is very professionally done and is just an overall great song.  To me, this song can be about an personal relationship or humanity as a whole, which I like.  I like songs that are versatile and can be applied to many aspects of my life.  It is also about feeling the weight of broken promises and hopes that did not come to fruition.  Memories, feelings, and words haunt you and it breaks your heart.  This song is just so beautiful and so well done.  This song made me really, really proud.  

Dan Connaughton
This beauty is an instrumental jam that Ryan composed with the ever amazing bass player, Dan Connaughton (rhymes with "rotten").  Ryan and Dan played together during Ryan's tenure with the Scotty Bratcher Band and, since his departure, I have missed seeing them play together, so this is a nice thing to have.  This song is such an awesome mix of styles and feelings and it's just beautiful and filled to brimming with awesome.  I have a really hard time talking about an instrumental song, so you should just go listen to it for yourself.  

"Sifting Through the Remains"
"And all this time, through all this pain, I just wanted to fix things.  But things just are the way they are, the way they'll always be, and though I see you've found someone new, I don't blame you."
Before I talk about this song, I want to talk about how Ryan Simpson delivers this song.  I have never, ever heard such conviction in an artist's voice as in this song.  It is heartbreaking and truly brought tears to my eyes.  Moving on, "Sifting Through the Remains" is about that place we've all been - the end of relationship you so desperately wanted to work out, but it just can't.  And no matter how much you wanted it to and no matter how much you realize that it won't, you're still left wondering what to do now.  You truly are sifting through the remains of your life and trying to put pieces back together.  And it sucks and it hurts and it breaks you, but it is what it is and there's not much you can do to change it except accept it, pick yourself up, and keep moving forward.  *I apologize for the brief deep-ish rant there.  This song got to me, too.*

"Stop. Rewind. Press Record"
"True salvation is just learning to cope with this uncertainty."
For some reason, I have struggled to think of what to write for this song.  I have literally been putting it off for days and have justified it because Ryan has yet to upload the digital version of his album.  I don't know why this song has given me so much trouble, I really like this song.  I guess it's because it's not about just one thing to me.  It depends on what you're looking for as to how you take it.  It's about conforming to a set of ideas or beliefs without necessarily wanting to or believing them for yourself.  It's about wanting to preserve who you are - or preserve those you care about - and keep from taking on ideas and opinions as your own without making your mind up for yourself.  This could be religion, but it could also be many other things.  Though the "baptize me in the river" line points mainly at religion, there are many types of baptisms (I would go on because, you know, the future English teacher in me wants to explain how baptism doesn't always mean baptism and it's not always a religious thing, but I'll spare you because this is about Ryan's song).  It's also a song about empty promises or hopes that fall short.  It's about how absolutely nothing in this life is certain but uncertainty and that could be the most important thing to understand.  Nothing we know or believe is completely set in stone.  I mean, the world was once believed to be flat, after all.  
Side note: I love this song more than I thought I did. Good job, Ryan.
Oh, also, at the end of this song there are angels singing.  Ryan corrected me when I called them angels and told me they're really the voices of a choir from another country (I can't remember which?), but I'm calling them angels.  And then for about 4 minutes, there's the sound effect of a tape rewinding.  I don't listen to it every time, but when I do it's pretty cool.  It intensifies and it's just really neat.  Give this song a listen.  

Please consider purchasing Ryan's music online at RyanSimpson.bandcamp.com.  If you would prefer hard copies of the CD's, I have provided links to various pages from which you can contact Ryan Simpson and arrange something.  Hard copies are $10. 

He thinks he's funny.
I feel like this review was a little (read: much) more biased than that of Free of Shackles.  But, you guys, I just think Ryan Simpson is an amazing musician.  If you've seen him drum, you know that his talents are immeasurable, but when you hear his solo music you can see that his talents are also innumerable.  I truly believe that he is capable of so many great things, he just needs the small push (read: swift kick in the pants) to put himself out there.  Please aid me in this endeavor by supporting him and his music.  I am so excited to see what the future holds for Ryan Simpson.

You can find him online at:

  • http://www.ryansimpson.bandcamp.com
  • http://www.reverbnation.com/ryansimpson 
  • http://www.soundcloud.com/ryan-simpson
  • http://www.facebook.com/ryan.simpson.5201  (personal Facebook page)
  • http://www.facebook.com/officialryansimpsonmusic (artist Facebook page)

Fantastic job, Ryan.  I am so incredibly proud of you, my friend. 

P.S. I don't know if I mentioned it or not, but you can listen to and buy both of his albums HERE