Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Fool | Ryn Weaver

Not long ago, American singer-songwriter Ryn Weaver was no more than a young student going through the motions at New York University. She dropped out of the school after a few uninspired years and was eventually connected with mega-producer Benny Blanco at a birthday party. Thanks to Blanco's help and some celebrity endorsements from the likes of Hayley Williams and Jessie Ware, she was plugged as an overnight viral sensation last year with her fiery debut single "OctaHate." As buzz continued, the doe-eyed musician conducted interviews from a bed in Blanco's Manhattan apartment and performed some of her first live shows in New York City, shocking audience members by exposing her unshaven armpits in a sleeveless outfit.

Nowadays, fans can follow her closely via social media outlets. She posts memes of crudely-drawn frogs on Twitter and holds video meetings with her close-knit group of dedicated followers via Omegle and Periscope. As she talks nonchalantly to her fans about her favorite video game character (Yoshi from Nintendo's Mario franchise, in case you were wondering) and the wonders of sugar daddies, her youthful, bouncy speaking voice is unrecognizable from the recordings on her debut album, The Fool

Behind the microphone, Weaver carries a subtle vibrato, which becomes strikingly vibrant as she sustains notes or is ending a phrase. (Think of Shakira, spare the sultry Columbia accent, or of Florence Welch, minus the extreme volume.) Her vibrato is at its purest in the middle of her range, but that doesn't stop her from taking advantage of her full range on this album. Although she does so infrequently, she bottoms out at her lowest notes (as heard in the bridge of the title track) and soars through her upper register (particular moments can be heard in the chorus of "Pierre" and underneath the layers of instrumentation in the post chorus of "Free").

The entire album is tied together by pastel tone colors. With a sound like no other, Weaver blends light electropop with alternative undertones with heavy use of delicate synthetic instruments and subtle implementations of acoustic guitars. At her most pop-oriented moments, Weaver can craft a mean hook; the childish clinks and snaps in the verses of "OctaHate" are struck down with pounding choruses that are fueled on frustration ("I can't take it / From the day I saw my heart start breaking, no one saved me"), while "Pierre," which chronicles past encounters with men and echoes unapologetic feelings, follows an identical pattern. Other numbers, particularly "The Fool," "Stay Low," and "Free," slide into their climaxes with less force and flourish with layers of vocals and synthesizers.

There is a fine division, however, between Weaver's glossy pop coating and her singer-songwriter tendencies. By the final three tracks of the album, Weaver's sonic force dwindles, her voice takes center stage, and her journey comes full circle. The touching "Traveling Song" is a steady-paced, stripped-back dedication to her grandfather that pairs her voice with acoustic guitars, while the ambient "New Constellations" justifies her curiosity with bold comparisons to those who declared, "No, the world isn't flat, it's a circle instead / You can ride to wherever you want to now." Perhaps the closest Weaver gets to a love song is on "Here is Home." The track, like "Traveling Song" and "New Constellations," is without an attention-grabbing chorus and assures her lover that he will always have a home in her arms: "You can fall into my arms / Yes, I know you know that here is home."

When listened to in one sitting, the album places its true emphasis on the journey; the songs stem from her stories as mere mementos. Telling stories of travel, indecisiveness, love, and heartbreak, the record reflects a long-term learning experience: listeners hear moments of intensity ("Runaway," "OctaHate"), conflict and contemplation ("The Fool," "Promises," "Pierre"), and reflection ("Traveling Song," "New Constellations"). Prior to the album's release, Weaver claimed that the album begs to ask, "Are you a fool for settling for something you've always wanted? Or are you a fool for running away and looking for more?" Even in hindsight, she still seems to favor fleeing for the open road in search of what could be; from the beginning to the end of this album, she sings the same messages of freedom. In all fairness, though, if she had not followed her free spirit, she wouldn't have this musical debut under her belt. While not the most thunderous debut to exist, The Fool tells engrossing tales that end not in periods, but instead semicolons, because Weaver's journey is nowhere near an end.

The Fool will be released June 16, 2015 via Mad Love and Interscope Records, but it can be streamed for a limited time on iTunes Radio First Play. Exclusive editions can be found at Walmart and Target department stores.

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