Chris Ryan & Chicken!
The City Has Teeth
Some solo artists go by their given name, others create a stage name. Chris Ryan did both, naming his solo project Chris Ryan and Chicken!, though strictly speaking it's just Chris Ryan. Ryan released his first solo effort earlier this year, with the help of former Mariage Blanc bandmate Josh Kretzmer and Ennui's Chris McDonald. The album, entitled The City Has Teeth, mixes modern indie pop a la Elliot Smith or Bright Eyes with country-flavored electric folk rock.
The former influences come into play especially in Ryan's vocals -- slightly distorted and often recorded as two tracks laid on top of one another, creating a tone that rides the line between harmonious and dissonant. Lyrically as well, The City Has Teeth takes on thematic elements at home in youth-oriented indie music: The songs are often about relations between people and living in the city and, of course, occasionally about drinking whiskey.
Ryan's Americana influences are most apparent on tracks like "Impatience as a Letdown," which takes a plucky folk riff and adds unexpected changes to the progression. The chord changes roll on with little in the way of resolution and that, along with the pace of the song, makes the track itself feel impatient -- in this case, a good trait.
Recorded on the cheap, the album is on the lo-fi side, but if anything, that adds to its amateurish charm. The pop sensibility Ryan shows is promising and makes The City Has Teeth work as an album and as music one could throw on in the car -- easy on the ears, but not a cookie-cutter piece of work.