William Ryan Key has a lengthy history of songwriting that feels intensely personal. Whether it’s his solo work or his work with Yellowcard, you can tell that he’s writing from a real place. He’s never one who will shy away from the tough subjects or extremely emotional moments. That’s something to be admired. Every now and then, I’ll listen to something mainstream on the radio and at times, it doesn’t feel like there’s much personality to it.
With Virtue, William Ryan Key is focused on the intimacy of these moments that he’s writing about. You can tell just with the lyrics that these songs really mean something to him. Even when the title track builds up to a full band sound, it doesn’t look the personal aspect to it and that’s something I love about the EP.
Earlier in the year, William Ryan Key released Thirteen and I’m glad he went with two EP releases versus one LP. He’s able to focus on specific sounds for each one and do something a little different. Both are enjoyable, but not necessarily for the same exact reasons, which is great. It gives you different flavors of what he can do as a solo artist and still keeps the songwriting as the core focus.
As a sucker for acoustic songs, I loved “Downtown (Up North)” the first time I heard it. It starts with just the acoustic guitar and builds up to a more filled out sound, but not necessarily that full band sound that we hear in “Virtue.” The string section is a pleasant addition as the song goes on and it’s very reminiscent of Yellowcard’s ballads.
The closing track, “No More, No Less,” is the most experimental track on the EP, but it ends it with a bang. It has an intensity that the other songs don’t really have and I’m all for it. The musicianship on it is still enjoyable and it brings you a little surprise to close things out.
If you haven’t had the chance yet, go give this EP a listen (and Thirteen, too). You can also buy a copy on Amazon if you’re interested. I highly recommend this as it’s one of my favorite EPs of the year.