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William Ryan Key - Virtue 

Release Date: November 30, 2018 

Review by: Kevin Jewkes

Former Yellowcard Front man William Ryan Key is back with his release of Virtue, a 6-song EP. Melodic and inspiring, the EP opens with a beautiful instrumental combining keys and finger-picking, building into Mortar and Stone. Built around soothing guitars, the layered vocals are soft, yet confident, the track continues to build with piano coming back in to compliment the guitar, eventually the vocals fade away leaving the listener enveloped in the warm melody.

 

The Bowery is reminiscent of The Shins, and William Ryan Key’s simple yet honest vocals carry the track in a calming manner – it’s a marriage of 00’s emo with a mellow classic rock vibe. While the drum track traffics a toe-tapping rhythm, the punk stylings of Yellowcard are long past. Virtue leaves the drums behind for the first half of the track going back to heavily layered vocals surrounded by piano and finger picking – the vocals on this track leave a bit to be desired, and the when the drum fills hit mid-way through the song it seems a bit out of place. What was a relatively calm track takes a turn with some repetitive fills which were probably better in concept than execution.


 

Downtown (Up North) gets back to what Key excels at: a song surrounding a story. Acoustic guitar with some strings build this beautiful track moving away from the finger-picking heard in the first half of the EP. The acoustic rhythm guides the song about heartbreak, and builds adding more and more layers without being ‘in your face’. This is the kind of pop track you could find on a film soundtrack, or maybe on your favorite drama.

 

Virtue closes out with a much darker song; No More No Less. The vocal effect and return to finger-picking with heavy reverb leads into a building drum roll and bass that crescendo’s and goes back to finger-picking – reminding me of a much lighter Brand New. The truth is, the drums in No More No Less and Virtue lack the creativity and dynamic of the rest of the instrumentation and might actually take away some of the overall dynamic that exists. The track lazily fades away leaving me to process what I just heard.

 

On a whole, the tracks are a flash back to days past when beautifully crafted instrumentation and melodic vocals reigned – when simple was a bit more. Key’s songwriting ability is on display on several tracks – but the experimental tracks go down a path that doesn’t resonate as well as it might have otherwise.  This EP is well worth a listen. The brilliant melodies and honest vocals work together well, and while the post-rock influenced builds are a bit out of place, they don’t take away the shine of Key’s song writing.