It’s possible that you heard Ryn Weaver’s “OctaHate” last year, but it’s also possible that you didn’t. It’s a different sounding kind of break-up song. It’s electronic at parts, rock-esque in others, which perfectly sets up the listener for her debut album The Fool, which defines the idea of not fitting into one single genre.
Now, I preface this with saying that you may or may not have heard the song because in an industry fueled by recycled hooks and melodies, “OctaHate” was a non-conformist rebel in the pop realm, like a Judd Nelson from The Breakfast Club if you will. However, Ryn’s fierce vocals with palpable anger make the song a much more realistic and relatable break-up song than many a Taylor Swift slow jam (who doesn’t love Taylor Swift? But compare the lyrical content of “OctaHate” to say, “Bad Blood” and I think you’ll see my point). Because of this progressive generation where it seems that artists and fads that stray from the common are becoming increasingly popular, it is somewhat surprising that a song like “OctaHate” and a different kind of sound that Ryn Weaver brings in her musical stylings didn’t catch on as much. However, like I said, in the pop machine industry in which we live in, there is a side to this that isn’t surprising.
Moving past the idea of simply “OctaHate”, her aforementioned debut album The Fool verges on being a concept album (when you listen to the album all the way through, it sounds like one long song with with the way it’s produced) and its overall production as well as its theme. The overall idea of the album is describing the course of a relationship in stages, but like the magic of Adele’s 25, the person with whom the relationship was with is never specified, leaving room for interpretation: is she singing about a relationship with another person or with herself? The idea of it being about someone else is most felt on title track “The Fool” which plays with more techno and glitchy sounding production and is summed up by Weaver herself, when she admits that we all can be “fools” sometimes for someone.
You can feel her talking about herself in songs like “Promises”, causing listeners to question how many times they promise to do something for themselves and never do. It’s more introspective than you may realize upon first listen.
Another trait of Weaver’s, besides her album, that sets her apart in a crowded alt-pop field is her voice. At times, she is fierce and strong and unflinching like on “OctaHate” and the end of “New Constellations” (when she growls out the open ended question of “what if there’s more?” layered over at least three other vocal lines). Other times, her voice, with it’s hint of controlled vibrato, shows she can croon (sometimes sounding like Sara Bareilles in tone) like the soft and rather beautiful “Traveling Song”, with an a cappella tribute to her grandfather at the end. This song in particular is quite a testament to this whole album. After songs laden with impressive production that perfectly matches the changing intensity of Ryn’s vocals, she can slow down to an (almost) ballad with only herself, guitar and some reverb that shows that even when broken down like that, she can still hold strong. My favorite lyrics of hers are on this song: “nobody knows where they are going, oh how we try to wrap our minds/ over the edge of all of our knowings, be it a bang or the divine/ tip of my ice berg blues are showing, I’ve never been one for goodbyes/ so till I meet you there I’m singing a traveling song to ease the ride, and so you know/ everywhere I go, I’ll see you on the road”.
Promising to not be confined to one genre is a hard promise to keep, but Ryn Weaver does that quite well and convincingly so. She can do a slow pop/singer-songwriter ballad like “Traveling Song”, alternative pop/rock on “OctaHate”, verging on an operatic anthem on “Pierre” and rocky/techno on “Runaway”. Many artists can’t pull that off. Many artists are very much one genre and though, try their best to break out into different genres, never seem to capture enough from that new genre to say they necessarily “broke out”. Yet, Ryn cannot be mistaken for a pop act….or a rock act…or a techno act. She’s diverse and that diversification should be more celebrated in the music industry than it is. The cool thing is that, similar to P!nk who I believe to be one of the most underrated pop acts in the industry (but more on that later), it doesn’t seem to bother her that people say they can’t understand her music. She seems to pride herself in this fact and frankly, that’s kind of what helps make her a badass.
So besides the talent and the diversification in her sound, why is Ryn Weaver worth listening to (that is if talent and diversification in sound isn’t enough for you, though this should be a welcome change from the doldrum that pop music can become at times)? Her lyrics. Something I know she prides herself on. Her writing is fantastic. Like I said, “Traveling Song” has a beautifully and eloquently put chorus that I personally love. “New Constellations” crafts some seriously hard hitting and biting lines like “so keep calling me crazy because I never learned/ you should stop loving fire just because you got burned” and “because it’s hard to believe that’s its wrong to want more/ than the truest of blues and a love like a roar”. Almost every song on her album has a moment lyrically that makes you stop and think about what she’s saying, what possessed her to write it the way it was written. That is the sign of an excellent lyricist, because it doesn’t just stop at one song with great lyrics. Even when she sings about subjects that have been stabbed to death with cliché, she manages to reword them in a way that doesn’t make it sound so traveled. “Free” one of my favorite songs on the album, is a love song you never saw coming. It’s got a soaring chorus and some seriously bombastic drums, and though the cliché of ball and chain is used during the bridge, you know she smiled cheekily when she worded it as “not a ball on a chain, just a ball when we’re together”. As a final testament to her writing, I saw a fan point out, and her later confirm that it was intentional, that in the first track “Runaway”, she is manic and crazed like she needs to escape and she’s saying that all she has to do is to run away, like that is her only option. If we were to analyze that this album is about a relationship with someone else, she is saying to that person that their in such bad shape and the only option is to leave to find peace. By the end of the album, she arrives at “New Constellations”, saying “you can run, you can run/ you can run if you want to, you know, you know you can run”, realizing she’s free with no need to escape. She almost comes to the conclusion that the way it is is fine, that it’s okay to be a “fool” because in the end, there’s something to be learned.
Not many albums I’ve listened to have been able to so clearly take the listener on a journey in that way. To take them on a creatively diverse musical journey, but also a poignantly told lyrical story line that makes you feel you’ve learned something along the way, whether it be about a relationship you have with somebody, or the relationship with yourself. Similar but also different to the effect people felt after listening to Adele’s 21: many related to her stories of heartbreak and many were able to get over relationships and memories that had been disparaging them by knowing somebody else was going through them. This is another album that I believe aims to do the same thing, but in it’s own sort of way.
So, if you’re looking for something to listen to, I would highly recommend listening to The Fool, an expertly crafted album by an artist I think we should all really be paying attention to.