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William Ryan Key | Virtue (EP)

Label:  The Lone Tree Recordings
Release Date: November 30, 2018
Rating:  4.5 out of 5
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November 26, 2018
By Alan Ho
Yellowcard are among the titans of pop-punk, evident from the moment the group was founded in 1997 in Jacksonville, FL all the way to the end on March 25, 2017, culminating in an incredible twenty years together in the studio and on the road.  Its frontman, Ryan Key, now known as William Ryan Key has since gone solo and released a debut EP Thirteen just at the beginning of this year (2018) and now his second effort, titled Virtues is a continued journey towards creating a new sound, one very different from the emotional but rollicky sounds of Yellowcard.  The sound is decidely more stark, contemplative, simple yet complex but still retains the highly technical, polished lyrical voice that Key was known for in Yellowcard and still evident in the present.

A six track effort, the EP begins with the lyric-free "The Same Destination," a wonderful introduction to the evolving sound of Key; it actually sets the tone for the remaining five tracks. It can be described as a piano-driven track with a distinctive synth passage that rises through the air, perhaps giving off a feeling of floating and gliding through a blue sky and clouds. 

"Mortar and Stone" showcases the contemplative nature of "The Same Destination," but now exposes a guitar-driven, yet raw emotional roller coaster with Key's vocals behind a tasteful synth feeling. You can feel the emotional roller coaster in every lyric; happy yet sad yet melancholic yet yearning for the past.

"The Bowery" captures all those feelings yet again, but is also a seeming ode to the very venue and state that helped propel his career. There is also a feeling of nostalgia in the lyrics like “I don’t shine like the others do. I’m so close and so far from the light, you see them standing in…Who do I think I am? Rushing in where I can’t win. And I am always crumbling beneath this heavyweight. Much to say, it’s this way always.” 

The title track is actually more of a breakup song, one of an intense nature; but you will not really feel that in the beginning as the narrator describes their feelings of loss to a person who has broken up and moved on well before the narrator has.  The real emotion from the track comes from the crashing drum line that is the final third of the track and gives real emotion the chorus.  The track ends with a seemingly odd Russian recitation over some ambient tracking.

"Downtown (Up North)" begins with an extended acoustic guitar strum and then crescendoes into a Simon and Garkfunkel-like lyrical melody that showcases Key's musical evolution from who he was as Yellowcard frontman to a vulnerable do-gooder as a solo artist. "No More, No Less" continues Key's magnificent lyrical poetry with an acoustic beginning but a middle portion whose musicality (especially the rolling drum line) is about as close as you are going to get to his Yellowcard past without Sean Mackin's violin lines.

Virtue is his second EP and showcases growing confidence in his solo craft as well as a musical journey to where Key wants to be at. Thirteen though is described as a starkly minimalist, stripped-back effort while Virtue showcases what he is capable of, combining his already long present lyrical poetry with raw, stark emotion behind the masterful production that he crafted over the years with Yellowcard. With Virtue, there should not be any doubt that just like he did with Yellowcard for those twenty years, William Ryan Key intends on taking listeners on a new journey, one with uncertainty, but one with twists, turns, a surprise or two and one that will be quite emotionally fulfilling.
Alan Ho is the co-founder, CEO and Chief Publisher/Webmaster of Musiqtone.com.  In between his IT guy duties in his day job, watching CW superhero shows, rooting for the Cubs and his alma mater Purdue, he manages to find time to review albums, make an infrequent sit-down in the Hot Seat and go cover a show or two. Tweet him at @atrain2324, he tweets, therefore he tweets.
Tori Kelly

Tori Kelly

Tori Kelly

Tori Kelly

Tori Kelly

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