Songs about love and loss seem to come easy for Ryan Martin on his second full length release, Gimme Some Light. From the opening lyric, “I lost my mind, then I felt the plane taking off,” Martin sets the mood for the album’s journey; he paints a vivid image of flying too high without a net, a theme revisited throughout the record to both sad and joyful resolve.
The hype sticker compares Martin to Ryan Adams, which makes perfect sense listening to rockers like “Say You Love Me.” The jangly electric guitar works particular well with the power-pop drums, a tried and true formula that gives the track some sonic depth. “Real Human Being” has echoes of Sufjan Stevens and Paul Simon, sporting lyrics like, “Oh my heart won’t start, come on, give it one more try” over some of the best fingerstyle guitar on the album. Here, Martin is fully entrenched in the folk-rock genre and has the musical chops to match.
Midway through Side B, “Regular Man” showcases the album’s instrumental unity, recalling the chord progression from the start of the record. That leads into the upbeat “Suicide Parade,” his most overtly Americana tune, owing its pedal steel twang to The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo or even The Rolling Stones’ classic “Dead Flowers.” But it’s frustrating to hear Martin perform so well in this vein, while then choosing to forgo it for more acoustic ballads, but that’s my own personal hot take; your mileage may vary.
Side D has some vinyl-only tracks, including the beautiful, Lennon-esque “The Marchers.” It’s puzzling that we don’t get it on the digital release as it’s easily one of the strongest songs on the album. Lyrically, this one takes a pretty dark turn with lines like, “Your sorrow, it looks like mine, why don’t we share it as we die.” Paired with the waltzing “The Prettiest Girl On This Side of Hell,” it’s a fitting end to the overall low-key feel of the entire album.
Dynamically, you’ll find the sound of this record fits in with contemporaries like The Avett Brothers’ I and Love and You or The Swell Season’s self-titled release. It’s a guitar and piano heavy recording with a roomy sound, especially in Martin’s vocals, so if you like the lively folk sound of the mid 2000s, you’ll instantly lock in. The vinyl itself has no surface noise with no pops and clicks detected.
The album is packaged in a heavy gatefold sleeve with pictures of a somber Martin on the front, back, and inside crease. If they were going for desolation, then the artwork certainly does the trick. The records are both heavy vinyl, probably 180-gram, but it’s not listed so I can’t say for certain. It’s not a flimsy product, though.
Gimme Some Light is available on black vinyl at Amazon.