Though she's primarily Boston-based at this point, Audrey Ryan grew up on Mount Desert Island and she's clearly retained some of that rough-and-tumble independence streak. Listening to her new I Know, I Know, her third full-length release, I found myself completely at her beck and call, willing to emotionally follow wherever she wanted to take me — whether ethereal, upbeat, sardonic, strident, or silly.
She has a way with basic percussion and guitar that make simple parts seem more than enough, a way with lyrics that make "buh-dum-bum" seem profound. She's been described as folky before, but I'd put her pretty firmly in that indie set occupied by Erin McKeown, the Decemberists, Jolie Holland, and Beach House. She creates soundscapes and toys with vocal effects, and is definitely looking to be a bit of a trailblazer, as indicated in the title track: "Maybe it's strange, maybe it's strange for you/For me."
Her "Ducks in a Row," with just a banjo in the open, sounds positively timeless (and ought to remind local fans of dilly dilly and Lady Lamb). Then "Get Over (Yourself)" is all fuzz-boxed and completely of the moment. "So Afraid" sprawls past six minutes, a slippery ghost of a song. The closing "Drunk Dial" is an accordion piece that's ridiculous and heartbreaking at the same time.
If I've got a qualm, it's that we don't often enough hear just her raw voice, as it's so buried in echo and effects, and it leads one to wonder if we really know the person who's just laid herself bare before us.
Regardless, Ryan's a pretty special talent and if we can claim her as our own, so much the better.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I KNOW, I KNOW | Released by Audrey Ryan | with Richard Jullien | at North Star Music Café, in Portland | Jan 15 |www.audreyryan.org