Written by: Alex Green
Kelley Ryan makes it look easy.
The singer/songwriter’s third solo record Telescope is an effortless folk-pop clinic that takes a long look at the world of broken things and tries to find ways to put them back together again. The former braintrust of the astroPuppees, Ryan is an artist of great depth who, like Patty Griffin or Kimm Rogers, knows her way around an open wound and sings crushingly lovely numbers through the pain.
Produced by Ryan along with Don Dixon (R.E.M., Tommy Keene), Telescope is a record of deep and probing beauty. Ryan’s not afraid to stare down her demons and she’s equally brave about capturing what it’s like to wrestle with them. “The Darkest Stars” is a slinky ode to sleeplessness and a restless mind; the percussive “Cigarette” cleverly likens a bad relationship to smoking, while the horn-flecked”Flake White Heart” soars achingly away.
Flanked by Marti Jones, Dixon, Jim Brock and Jon Thornton, Ryan has assembled a perfect backing band and they click with the kind of musical ease that makes Telescope quite easily one of the most listenable and cohesive records you’ll hear all year.
Later, “Save Me,” which is a co-write with Rogers, brings to mind the early work of Pete Droge; “Pulling For Romeo” is as plaintive as it is inventive and “Passing Through” (which Ryan wrote with Marshall Crenshaw), is a dreamy blend of sweet pop and sheer folk soul.
The proceedings end with the melodic and rousing “Real Gone Girl” which finds Ryan declaring she’s going to, “Jump in my car with nothing but stars to guide me.”
With songs as illuminating as these, it’s hard not to imagine the ride will be a very smooth one, indeed.