At the time of writing this review, I am filled with excitement and anxiety. I remember hearing that Yellowcard was calling it quits on their career only a short year ago (2017) and while I wasn’t as gutted as some of my friends were, I did feel as if my more youthful days o punk rock were starting to dwindle and burn out. Bands I loved as a kid were growing apart, moving on and so was I. However, the career of William Ryan Key has continued passed Yellowcard and evolved into a restrained, thoughtful solo effort.
With an ambient introduction, it’s clear that Key is aimed at creating a calmer experience. Filled with piano and droning synth, you are lulled into the entirety of the track. Uplifting as it is refreshing, “The Same Destination,” immediately transports you to a welcoming place for Key to begin his journey with the listener.
Remember those tracks off some of the older Yellowcard albums? The very low-key (no pun intended), acoustic driven tracks? Devoid of the sometimes cliché pop punk tropes that the Jacksonville quartet sometimes incorporated? Those magical nuggets that quietly punctuation the hard-hitting tracks like Lights and Sounds or Way Away? “Mortar and Stone,” is that sought after hidden track. Except that it opens William Ryan Key’s record. Building on that openness, filling in all the space left by “The Same Destination”. There is nothing punchy about a skillfully played acoustic and complimentary vocals and yet it takes your breath away.
There is a huge difference between a group and a solo effort and often, ensemble-turned-solo musicians fall flat on their first attempt. This is clearly NOT the case with Key’s album as he progresses in “The Bowery.” His musical voice is free to do whatever he wants, and one can easily see how he was a major factor in the entirety of Yellowcard’s sound. The layer of simple pieces results in a complex sound that lays the foundation for his confident, yet calm voice. It’s simply divine.
That is the word that keeps recurring to me as I listen over and over. Divine.
“I hear peace in the rhythms of your voice,
comforts me knowing you have made a choice,
lost my words in a clouded mine,
guard the doorway to the truth,
my virtue ends with you.”
And without a beat being missed, “Virtue” takes over the sonic soundscape with huge drums, droning bass and elegantly picked acoustic guitar. Each simple layer once again compiling into an overly massive sound that washes over you. It comforts me knowing you have made a choice. There is no way to avoid the feeling in this track. Even as I sit here, feeling full from overindulging on “The Bowery,” I couldn’t keep myself from putting “Virtue” on repeat.
I haven’t been able to pick a favorite track from this EP and maybe that because they are all my favorite. “Downtown,” really reminds me of singalong songs from bands long gone (read: Yellowcard). Laid back in its minimalist approach but swaying with rhythm. There is just something about the way Key approaches each song that kills it.
I’ll be waiting downtown hoping you’d do me in. Sirens singing with me while I lose you again.
Meryl Streep memes all day
I don’t even want to finish reviewing this EP, it’s too goddamn good. Who would have thought that after already having a career that a musician would kill to have half of, Key is still able to create these songs that “leave just enough” to pull you in effortlessly.
Rounding out “Virtue,” Key ups the ante with a more driven track. “No More No Less,” still holds onto that openness that the rest of the album has established but it pushes you through that space with a little more oomph then the rest of the record. A bit more bass, a bit more drums, just a bit more of everything all around and goddamn if it isn’t an exclamation point to a perfect effort. Woah.
It’s hard to justify a perfect record, because I may come off as a sycophant but it’s hard to find flaws when there just aren’t any. “Virtues” is as perfect as can be for what it is. A solo effort penned by one of the best songwriters of the 2000s. Not comparable to Yellowcard (though its’ impossible to mention Key without his tenure in one of the pop punk kings), Virtues is entrancing if not magical and though it may not scratch the itch of many a nostalgia-ridden fan, it is a truly filling experience and should be appreciated by long-time fans and new ones alike.
Pre-order your copy of William Ryan Key’s new solo record, Virtue, directly at his website: https://www.williamryankey.com/.