When it comes to a Ryan Allen release, it’s never immediately obvious what you’ll get. His brilliant ‘Up Here’ EP from 2019 presented some brilliant punk-edged power pop via a song cycle regarding his divorce; the first of his 2021 releases, ‘What A Rip’ was a guided tour of his various poppier influences, and that year’s second venture, ‘Digital Hiss’, was an exploration of lo-fi, noisier work. That was also cool, but not necessarily what lovers of ‘What A Rip’ would’ve expected…or maybe even wanted.
Following a handful of ragged but enjoyable albums with his band Extra Arms, Ryan Allen released his most personal work to date in 2019 when ‘Up From Here’ documented his emotional regrouping following a divorce. Essentially punk pop’s answer to Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’, the record had introspective qualities, but had enough musical clout to entertain the kind of listener that doesn’t listen to lyrics. In short, almost everything about it suggested that Allen had reached full potential as both a songwriter and musician. Then, in quick succession, Allen threw out three more releases containing a barrage of cover tunes and scrappy songs which, in his own words, were “written in a flurry during life in lockdown”. Aside from being keen to move on, it almost seemed as if he wanted to cast aside ‘Up From Here’s musical maturity.
It’s been a great year at Real Gone. Not only did the website celebrate its tenth birthday, but we got more requests and submissions for review than ever! This year, everything felt like it had truly come together and paved the way for the next phase of the website’s lifespan.
This year, Real Gone received hundreds upon hundreds of review items and digital streams. Obviously, there isn’t enough time to review everything…but from the mountain of stuff we got to listen to and review, there was a lot of great music.
A concept record isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a band heavily influenced by Superchunk, The Replacements and various pieces from a pop-punk past. You probably wouldn’t expect a “divorce record” either – such things are often the province of the more introspective singer-songwriter – but that’s exactly where we find Ryan Allen and his Extra Arms at the close of 2019. An eight song outpouring, ‘Up From Here’ does a fabulous job of documenting Allen’s feelings and place within the world following a marriage split, but those who’ve enjoyed his previous works shouldn’t be concerned that this is too heavy going, as his thoughts are often coupled with some fabulous power pop and pop-punk arrangements.