Review: Jason Rylan “2012″

Jason Rylan “2012″

05 Apr, 2011 Kevin Mathews

Naming your album one year ahead is to suggest futurism. Or perhaps you just got the year wrong! Tongue-in-cheek is always a good quality to possess to remind ourselves that, above all, music should be fun.

Jesting (and hyperbole) aside, upon initial listens, the music on electronic artist Jason Rylan’s sophomore album is in fact anything but forward looking.  Most of the influences to whom Rylan obviously owe debts date back to the 1980’s, when synth-pop first made its commercial impact.  Not only that, but on half the album Rylan actually utilizes an acoustic guitar as a rhythm instrument, which suggests that awkward hybrid genre known as folktronica. This musical schizophrenia is borne out of Rylan’s candid admission (in his official biography) that he loves Madonna and Led Zeppelin in equal measure. Classic rock filtered through electronica? This idea is never more crystalized than in Rylan’s truly idiosyncratic version of the Led Zeppelin chestnut “Stairway To Heaven.”

Re-interpreted as a dance number with heavy shades of the late John Barry’s James Bond themes, this familiar tune is almost unrecognizable as Rylan puts his fairly original spin on. It’s an ambitious attempt, but such chutzpah should be admired. This gives us a clear view of what Rylan is attempting here on 2012: classic rock sensibilities with post-modern electronica.

Rylan started out recording and songwriting mainly as a hobbyist. However, in 2005, he created Sky Ambient Productions, Inc. as a local Las Vegas audio and visual production company and in the same year, Rylan debuted his first sexy single “Go-Go Boyz.” The go-to track on this album is actually a radio edit of “Go-Go Boyz” with its 80’s gay disco vibe, inspired as it is by Rylan’s experience of watching Las Vegas’ dancers (at Gipsy and Krave Nightclubs) in action and also by the Sydney Mardi Gras in Australia. The rest of 2012 more or less follows this 80’s dance pop agenda, with Rylan’s baritone vocals reminiscent of many of the 80’s synth-pop masters e.g. Soft Cell, Human League, Blancmange, and Depeche Mode. The title track itself is an interesting, thought-provoking song about socio-political themes viewed through the perspective of the end of the world.  Thematically, of course, the influence of Prince’s “1999″ is obvious.

Thankfully, for folks who enjoy proper melodies in their dance pop music, Rylan delivers for most of 2012. Mostly consisting of actual songs arranged in electronic format, this record never skimps on the quality of tunes in favor of a dance beat, but manages to maintain a fine balance between the two. “Soar” is a perfect example of this balance, as drum patterns and auto-tune are utilized for maximum impact, but even stripped of these effects, the song would be able to stand on its own. This approach also applies to tracks like the strident “Survivor,” the folksy “Goner,” Latin-flavored “Love of a Lifetime,” soulful “Hot Mess” and the throbbing “Stimulation.” Many of these songs recall Queen’s early 80’s foray into gay disco (“Hot Space”) and that is a feat in itself!

The greatest distinction of Jason Rylan’s 2012 is that it is able to look back and forward at the same time without ignoring the present. Retro-futurist? Sounds about right!

Review by Kevin Mathews
Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)