In case it hasn’t been obvious, we here at Tiny Mix Tapes are pretty stoked on Ryan Power’s upcoming album Identity Picks, and with good reason. Power has managed to create that rare kind of intellectual pop music that manages to call to mind a number of references without ever really fitting into any one style or genre. For example, while Ryan A. Detwiler heard an eclectic combination of Kaputt-era Destroyer, Hot Chip, and Will Oldham, I heard Todd Rundrgren with a good dose of Jim O’Rourke’s Insignificance-style cynicism, while my girlfriend heard Justin Timberlake via Ariel Pink. However, despite the disparity of these references, they all have a common thread that actually sums up one of the best things about Power’s work. In a recent interview, Power spoke at length about how he hopes that “the art of songwriting” comes back because of the current emphasis placed on gimmicky production. And there is indeed a pretty clear difference between songs that work because they rely on (in Power’s words) a “wonky beat in Ableton using samples of your friend taking a dump” and songs that work because they’re immaculately crafted structurally.
“The Prize,” Identity Picks’ first single, is an excellent example of why the latter type of songs tend to rule so hard. The track has a theoretically complex chord progression, but Power manages to wrangle a melodic hook out of his sophisticated harmonies at every turn. Then there are the absolutely cutting lyrics that seethe over relationships with the kind of honest intensity of the aforementioned O’Rourke or the oft-forgot Quasi. Throughout, Power’s production is sparse and on point; there’s nothing here that shouldn’t be. This attention to the actual craft of “the song” is what calls to mind so many other great songwriters/bands when listening to Power’s music. It can often be easy to make something interesting through sonic gimmicks, but it takes something like Power’s structural ingenuity to create truly memorable work that places him among the many rad dudes that his works initially call to mind.