Album Review: Bill Ryder-Jones – Yawn

Words by James Robertson

The follow-up to West Kirby County Primary seems a logical next step for Bill Ryder-Jones. Where West Kirby was an album that put his songwriting front and centre over a mix of delicate and twisting guitar, often harking back to the sounds of the noughties, Yawn uses Ryder Jones’ solemn delivery and puts it in front of a wave of guitars and cello.

Bill Ryder-Jones - Yawn artwork

Ryder-Jones’ obsessiveness with music is a trait that makes his production and own songwriting standout among his contemporaries. The music and sounds that Ryder-Jones surrounds himself with at the time of recording seem to naturally have an impact on the direction he goes in. 2011’s If… was released in a time spent mostly consumed with classical music and around the time of West Kirby, he was working with Hooton Tennis Club and seemingly dipping into their upbeat, angular, noise pop sound. Coming off the back of his production on Our Girl’s debut album Stranger Today, Yawn even has Soph Nathan contributing to vocals on the record. It makes sense then, that while working on Our Girl’s shoegaze-heavy sound that he would want to see where he could take it in his own music.

With a career spanning 15 years, Ryder-Jones has always been an incredibly interesting and endearing figure in music. His openness about his mental health coupled with his honest observational lyrics has found him a fanbase that will obsess over every word. Unsurprisingly, this is an album with eloquent and expressive lyrics which are left wide open to interpretation. Ryder-Jones’ biggest strength is his ability to weave tales alongside philosophical musings, paired with an incredible palette of sounds. This is demonstrated perfectly on ‘Mither’, an honest reflection of a son about his mother. With his background and fascination with classical music, Ryder-Jones uses unconventional song structures which enables him to create a sonic landscape to get lost in.

The whirlwind of jangly guitars and hearty cello takes you to places you’ve been before but with Ryder-Jones as your guide, it feels different. ‘Recover’ keeps you in its warm embrace yet just at arm’s length, allowing you to identify with the song’s themes of dependency whilst also pondering over the ambiguities in its lyrics. There is a sadness and remorse in his delivery which makes what could be a simple quiet moment on the album stand out; it is the shortest song on the album but the one that requires the most replays.  

Yawn‘s final track, ‘Happy Song’, has some of Ryder-Jones’ greatest guitar work and delivery. ‘Another happy song for people who were happy once’ – it’s a prime example of Ryder-Jones building a world for us to temporarily sit in. The song begins with whispers and mutterings that fade away for a clear vocal delivery and disjointed guitars. As the song ends, we’re left with the guitars driving and pushing everything upward until everything slows down.

Ryder-Jones’ music is intimate and relatable, and he knows how important his songs are to people who identify with them. He is someone who seems to revel in his own misery, but that’s only because it allows him to make such bitter and truthful observations. As a man of honest truths, perspective is his greatest gift. A gift he attempts to bestow on the listener by cleverly surrounding his lyrics with blistering guitars, he shares it with the listener by crafting a space to truly reflect in the moment.