independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Ryan travels to the land of musical sun

The Ruby Suns

Christopher

(Memphis Industries)

HHHHI

Californian Ryan McPhee relocated to New Zealand a decade ago and enjoyed modest success as frontman of indie-pop outfit The Ruby Suns.

A split from his long-term girlfriend and bandmate encouraged McPhee to seek pastures far afield from Auckland.

His wanderings – the album title alludes to the patron saint of travellers – brought him to Oslo and it was there that he became fixated by the rich pop heritage of Scandinavia.

What's emerged is not especially Nordic-sounding, but there's is a glistening pop sheen present that recalls everyone from Roxette to Robyn.

And McPhee demonstrates that classic Abba device of wrapping sad sentiments in an uplifting package: beneath the upbeat, synth sounds are words that meditate on lost love.

With production courtesy of the in-demand Chris Coady – whose credits include such US luminaries as Grizzly Bear and Yeah Yeah Yeahs – the album flits between the commercial and avant-garde.

At its best, McPhee creates an effervescent electro-pop landscape that's somewhere between the visionary approach of Dan Deacon and the radio-baiting catchiness of A-ha.

There's a strong 1980s influence to the sound – not least on Real Life – although McPhee and Coady are inventive enough to ensure the material isn't simply a slavish re-thread of the past.

And there's substance to his words too including Boy's blunt admission of "there's a monster in everyone you know".

Sometimes you have to go away to find yourself.

KEY TRACKS Boy; Real Life

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