For the record: Meet The Ruby Suns

Music columnist Meghan LeVota on the band’s latest album, ‘Christopher’

By Meghan LeVota | Sept. 3, 2013

Tags: Music


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You may not have heard of The Ruby Suns. And that’s okay, because after listening to their newest album Christopher, you may not recognize them.

Meet Ryan McPhun, a world traveler bringing worldly influences to his sound. A California native, McPhun spent time in Africa and Thailand before eventually settling in New Zealand, where The Ruby Suns was born.

After signing with popular Seattle-based label Sub Pop Records in 2007, The Ruby Suns got their name out there with the African-influenced Sea Lion. Subsequently, in Fight Softly, The Ruby Suns brought out the synthesizers, shifting their style in an electronic direction.

After the ending of a long-term relationship, McPhun spent some personal time in Norway to clear his head and find inspiration. From this, an entirely different sound was born: glossy, indie dream pop, clearly influenced by the Scandinavian glacial environment.

In addition to new experiences and influences, The Ruby Suns got the opportunity to work with A-list sound engineer Chris Coady (the man behind Grizzly Bear and Beach House), mastering enormous sound to create Christopher.

This emotional album of love, loss and self-actualization starts off on a positive note with “Desert of Pop.” McPhun tells a story of love — presumably, the story of when he met his ex-girlfriend. The song exudes trance-like bliss, complete with cheesy romantic lines like “flower among the weeds / is what you are.” McPhun is clearly enamored as he passionately repeats the word “love” for the entire last minute of the song.

Despite the dance-pop energy, McPhun starts to realize that the honeymoon phase may not last forever in “In Real Life.” Insecurity and doubt naturally seeps in as McPhun admits that he doesn’t “want to live a real life,” and that he’s “not ready for the real life.”

Maybe it’s true that infatuation is not forever, as “Dramatikk” takes a turn for the worse. As you can assume from the title, this track is high on the drama, communicating the depressing yet familiar feeling of love without boundaries in a failing, toxic relationship. Emotion is portrayed so simply in the phrase “and the touch of forgiveness / to the edge of depression.”

Contrary to the upbeat, pingy rhythms found at the start of the album, “Dramatikk” becomes more chillwave, featuring a controlled and repetitive underlying rhythm in the synth. The Ruby Suns contrast this stability in the chorus with rampant synths mirroring the terror of an overactive brain. It is clear that McPhun has had enough of drama in relationships, as this song marks a turning point of the album.

Next up: the crowd favorite “Kingfisher Call Me,” the catchiest song on the album, with real potential to compete against other alternative “hit singles.” Powerful, synth-heavy swells combined with syncopated beats make this track one to remember. McPhun repeats the phrase “dry your eyes, its what to do / don’t listen to anyone except for you,” revealing the raw emotion of the post-breakup phase.

Emotions dive deep in “Jump In,” featuring modal melodies that create a devil-like aura (especially when paired with such depressing lyrics). McPhun has seemingly hit rock bottom when his lyrics contemplate the afterlife: “when we reach the air up above / don’t know how / we’ll let it be.” Finding himself distracted by the possible heavens, the song ends with the morbid lyric, “I hold my breath and jump in.”

Perhaps my personal favorite from the album, “Futon Fortress,” emotes the pure beauty of alone time. Angelic harmonies combined with trippy synthesizer depicts the essence of the epiphanies experienced when one is truly free, a view of what you can see when one is alone yet not lonely: “Can’t escape the prison of a million men / a million cuffs have gone free / Won’t drag me away / I don’t know why.”

Christopher is not only a beautiful album that’s great for easy listening, but it tells a story through true musicianship. Although The Ruby Suns may only have 8,000 likes on their Facebook page, they have proved to our alternative favorites that they are a force to be reckoned with.

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