Ben Ryan, who hails from Vancouver, B.C., recently dropped Abacus, a collection of alt-pop tunes. Ryan provides vocals, piano, guitar, and bass, and is joined on the album by Brandon Christy on drums.
According to Ryan, “The title of the album may seem vague, as many album titles are. I called it Abacus because before pursuing music, I was studying economics at the University of British Columbia. Feeling unhappy and burnt out, I decided to take some time off to record this album and really discover who I am as a person. To me, an abacus is a symbol of identification, they are supposed to be a tool used for math, but you only ever see them in play areas at doctors’ offices. This album is inspired by the idea of pursuing life as an entertainer as opposed to a calculator.”
The first track on the album is “Peru.” The intro left me disinterested, and I almost skipped to the next song, which would have been a mistake because “Peru” is very good. Once the drums join the piano, the song takes on form, adding texture and color; then a pause, followed by the song ascending to gorgeous harmonics and a powerful rhythm. “Never Go” rides an upbeat pop tune that’s good, but not as good as “Peru,” probably because the chorus on “Never Go” feels a bit stilted.
“Gold” opens with a mellow guitar, followed by a funky beat bouncing with harmonic colors. “Home” pulses from the get-go, as the bass drum provides a foundational beat, while a stuttering piano rides overhead.
“Roof & Rain” combines pop and folk flavors, giving the tune a measured feel akin to a buoyant lullaby. When the guitar solo kicks in, the music assumes a dynamic rumbling flow. “Diamond Mine” is a piano pop number that’s tantalizing but never achieves fruition. It sounds like any other piano pop tune, offering little in the way of innovation.
The best tune on Abacus is definitely “Peru,” because of its mounting structure. It rises in steps, then descends, then soars once again. The other tunes are good, but too derivative, and too mediocre for an artist who obviously has beau coup talent.