Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Ryan Helman, a UK-based indie rocker with an incredible following for an indie artist. In the last twenty-four hours he topped the Reverb Nation national charts and he’s got tens of thousands of listeners following him rather intently on social media throughout several avenues. On that merit alone, he probably has a higher standing in the community than most of the artists featured on the Spotlight. Does his sound stand tall against that reputation? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Let’s delve into a handful of new tunes he’s mastered and gotten ready for your earholes.
Helman’s brand of rock and roll is tempered by his smooth vocals; he’s soft, tempered, and articulate. The sound is immediately reminiscent of a strong lineage of British pop rockers. I’d align it heavily with the stuff Stiff Records put out in the late 70s and early 80s - the Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello gang. Some tracks sound like a tune Lowe would pen, and the guitar riffing and musical personality of ‘I Don’t Want You No More’ is right off the cutting room of ‘This Year’s Model.’
On the production end, Helman’s music is intensely well executed, and in particular, you’ll love him on a quality sound system. ‘I Don’t Want You No More’ filled my studio this evening with fantastic Brit-inspired pop licks and suave vocals. The lyrics are witty and sharp, which is contrasted by a production that gives them room to breath, all while showcasing the instrumentation elegantly.
‘I Touched Your Harley’ is a strong statement of composition, though at times, the lyrics feel a bit too filled with tropes to remain interesting. One of Helman’s strengths in his creative usage of guitar. ‘Harley’ is superb in that sense, being an excellent vehicle (no pun intended) for that expression. Helman’s backing band is especially tight, too. You’ll be stretched to find any moment in these tracks that anything is out of step.
One of my favorite excursions of that band is ‘Night Time Girl,’ an infectiously lovely ballad. I was provided two mixes of the song, and they’re very similar with the exception of sonic intricacies and mixing decisions. In honesty, either would be a fine choice for a final release. ‘Standing In A Bowl Of Something’ is mastered noticeably lower than the previous tracks, but it’s arguably the finest of the bunch. Seriously, what a great track; I love his harmonies and dynamic riffs.
Finally, ‘The Art of Persuasion’ closes out our look into Helman’s music. This driving piece isn’t as notable as the rest, mostly because it does meander in comparison to tactful counterparts the likes of ‘Bowl of Something.’ Thus, is Helman’s significant following onto something? Most certainly. His brand of Brit pop is absolutely thrilling, especially for someone like me who has great nostalgia and love for artists from Stiff and similar labels. Check him out below.