This October Ryan will release "In the Dusk of Everything," the final chapter of a trilogy of self-reliant albums that began with "Dear Lover" in 2010 and 2011's "I Recall Standing as if Nothing Could Fall." Across them, Ryan has been tracking a couple, considering, from an array of angles, their relationship and their environment, because for Ryan love and its consequences never emerge in a vacuum.
I showed her my scars then, she showed me her bruises
You're someone's salvation, in a stupid world
One need not hear the first two albums of this trilogy to make sense of the scars and bruises and years that mark the third, though those two albums set these stories in motion. "I'm leaving here different than when I came," Ryan sings on "She's a Sparrow." "Things can't be what they were once they've changed."
Taken on its own terms, "In the Dusk of Everything" -- which was co-produced with David Ricketts, who directed Ryan's debut album "May Day" -- is the most harrowing, beautiful and mysterious of the trilogy. There's no closure but there is something like dramatic resolution. After a filmic lament of strings, the singer finds himself surveying the wreckage of the recent past on "And So It Goes":
I hold no grudge no more
Though I did for a couple of years
The hate you harbor only welcomes what you fear
"It's too late," Ryan sings, his voice a riveting whisper, close miked to capture everything, even what's unconscious. On "I Hate Everyone" Ryan reveals, in an almost spoken-word fashion over a simple time-counting beat and ambient backdrop, just how dark the dark can get:
All the hearts are black and full of useless stuff
They turn their backs when things get tough
Over the course of these nine songs, two instrumental passages and one bonus track, Ryan dips his pen in that dark ink and writes and sings and plays his way through it.
There's freedom up ahead but it's a hard curve
There's a reverb in our hearts that speaks louder than words
That's from the song "Amy, I'm Letting Go," one of Ryan's best rock songs, though it's played only with acoustic guitar and harmonica. On this album Ryan has largely -- but not exclusively -- reduced everything to essence: voice, guitar, harmonica, the faintest of keys and loops. That's mostly it. And the same holds true for his language. He doesn't waste a word or a phrase. "Real love is letting go," he calls out at the end of the song. What else could he say?
"In the Dusk of Everything" is a demanding but rewarding listen because it was made by a demanding intelligence and heart, a demanding songwriter who hones every line, every phrase, to a fine, truthful edge. In doing so he finds, for himself and his audience, a clear, honest, forgiving way forward.
Let's wave goodbye to what we were
and never will be again
"In the Dusk of Everything" will be released on October 30, 2012 by Matthew Ryan.