It is common knowledge that side-projects give musicians the opportunity to step away from their “day job” and flex their creative muscles. For State Champs bassist Ryan Scott Graham, his wordy named solo venture, Speak Low If You Speak Love, does just that. Having established a firm acoustic-led sound on 2015’s ‘Everything but What You Need’, his second outing ‘Nearsighted’ hints at stylistic growth.
Throughout atmospheric electronics and occasional rich brass swells creep in, allowing Graham to broadened his musical palette. Songs such as ‘Circle Spinning’, ‘Your Love It Runs’, and opener ‘Have I Changed’ add texture and depth to Ryan’s personal tales. Additionally, early highlight ‘Enough’ suggests a diverse record is on the cards. Its favourable groove compliments the funky guitar and synthesis beeps.
However, it’s clear Graham finds comfort in writing luscious, emotional songs that when stripped back, allow his words to become the focal point. ‘Hatsuyume’ briefly illustrates this. While ‘Cannot Have It All’ beautifully shines with twinkling pianos, plucky acoustics and harmonious horns, serving up one of the stand out moments.
Admirably, there is a compelling quality to Graham’s songwriting throughout. None more so than on ‘Safety Net’. Its haunting, ballad-esque tone pulls you in as Ryan plain and simply opens himself up to the listener; “I won’t build you a safety net if you’re just planning to fall in it.”
Even though Graham proves his ability to write sincere songs, the momentum begins to wane during ‘Nearsighted’’s later moments. ‘Mystery’s Gone’, ‘Hold Me Now’ and ‘Swell’ are all comfortably delivered, yet their tedious pace ends the record on a hollow note.
Nevertheless, in terms of a “solo project”, Graham successfully crafts an identity that is firmly distanced from State Champs. If given a little patience, ‘Nearsighted’ can charm as it is delivered with lyrical maturity and subtle musical depth.
‘Nearsighted’ by Speak Low If You Speak Love is available now on Pure Noise Records.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)