Soldier Rye – Plot Twist

 Soldier Rye – Plot Twist

Soldier Rye – Plot Twist – Album Review

I’m always excited to welcome back veteran talent I know we can rely on for quality tunes – and this man right here, has always been synonymous with those lemme tell ya!  Believe it or not, this year will mark the seventh that I’ve been listening to the music of Soldier Rye for – it was sometime way back in 2015 that we first ran into each other online, and more recently, he appeared on our pages with the release of his album Antenna in 2018.  Admittedly, it’s been far too long since we checked on in this multi-talented minstrel – but hey, that’s not ALL on us – this is our first chance to DO that in between Antenna and his latest record Plot Twist…don’t go thinkin’ we’re not here ready for the music to drop!

Because we are…and we’re crackin’ into this new 2022 release by Soldier Rye at the front of the pack, right here, right now, only a mere like…I dunno…Plot Twist has been out for about ten days now I think?  That soon enough for ya friends?  We’re on the ball, I promise – now let’s check this new album out!

That sly hit of the ol’ Cosmic Funk comin’ atcha on “Cinema” as the album begins hits real nice.  Music & production-wise, Soldier Rye starts out right on target with his first cut…pace-wise & structure-wise, there might be more risk involved with starting out Plot Twist with “Cinema.”  As ear-catching as the majority of sound truly IS, the tempo itself is mired right in the ol’ mid-section…you could look at it as laid out in a way that gives the album room to grow…you could also look at it as potentially a bit too laidback for an opening tune, and neither of those conclusions would be wrong – we’ll all hear it differently in that regard, like we always do.  The real bottom line here, is that he’s given this mid-tempo tune a major chance through the stellar production on the music and how much this track sparkles & shines right from the get-go.  Filled with positive vibes and a grounded perspective, “Cinema” plays off the feeling that “all the world is your stage” and encourages you to live your dreams out loud in that sense…I dig how our man’s music serves a greater purpose when it comes to what he’s writing about – and by the end of this review, we’ll dig into that a lot more by the time all is said & done here.  As for the moment – “Cinema” starts out Plot Twist with enough of a colorful bounce and vivid imagery in the words that it should end up serving Rye’s new record pretty darn well as the gateway in for us listeners.

Spoiler alert up ahead” – Soldier Rye’s always got plenty in the tank, so don’t go stressin’ out if you feel like this new record takes a moment or two to find its more secure ground & solid cuts – it will.  Could he have gone a little bigger for the chorus of “Cinema” to start?  Sure.  I’ve been finding at the beginning of this record, the more energy & power he puts into his vocals, the bolder & more confident the tone becomes – I have my moments with spots in both the opening cuts where I felt like the hero of this story could have put just a bit more weight in behind his words, but the man makes it real hard to complain when everything else surrounding him consistently sounds so damn good.  A metaphor for life itself, “Plot Twist” winds through a series of twists & turns echo the many different obstacles we face along the way, as told via SR’s experiences & point of view.  He has hooks in “Plot Twist,” don’t get me wrong – but the main hook really is the man himself…Soldier Rye has a very defined vocal sound and it’s gonna grab some people more than others, naturally.  I don’t know that he’s got his strongest material up front on this album though if I’m being real with ya…or if it quite measures up to what we’ve heard from him in the past – “Plot Twist” is the title-track…and it’s good…idea-wise & thematically, I can easily make an argument as to how it becomes the album’s centerpiece.  Musically, I think it’s just as incredible as ever, if not one of my favorite cuts on this record in that regard…Rye’s crushin’ it in that department, but it does feel like he’s having a harder time finding a way to fully balance that from the mic this time around.

“Catalyst” is the kind of cut that instantly reveals the versatility and depth in the music of Soldier Rye.  At track three, we’ve gotta recognize the fact that he’s not in his up-tempo bag for this record, he’s going for a more atmospherically-inclined set of digitalized moods and rhythmic grooves on this album.  All-in-all, he might be trading a bit of his traditional accessibility and alluring energy in favor of creating songs with a higher degree of art involved…time will tell on that when it comes to the court of public opinion, but personally, whatever the results may be that regard, it’s always rewarding for an artist to explore what they’re capable of.  “Catalyst” felt really new for Soldier Rye’s music overall, and equally compelling to listen to as a result – it’s the kind of cut that pretty much defies any kind of accurate description we could make to pin it down for comparison.  It’s like a combination of cross-cultural and other-worldly vibes…spiritual & sensory…and you feel the real weight of Rye’s thoughts & emotions as he sings the words in this song, in addition to the sensational musicianship found in the instrumentation.  Assisted by guest-star Soulpacifica on “Catalyst,” this is one of the most unique tracks in Soldier Rye’s catalog overall from my perspective on it, and there’s a whole lot here that might very well illuminate his pathway forward.  It’s a low-key cut, don’t get me wrong – energy-wise, it’s not like “Catalyst” is gonna make you jump up & down in excitement…but this does feel like a real victory for SR’s music and art in my opinion.  As far as Plot Twist is concerned, this is the track that I felt grabbed my attention for the sheer departure it makes in Soldier Rye’s music from what I’ve heard, to something altogether new – and c’mon y’all…how can you resist this song as it heads into its exquisite & immaculate second minute?  You can’t.  No human with a heartbeat could.  “Catalyst” is straight-up gorgeous between 1:50-2:30-ish…the kind of sound so beautiful, bold, and fragile, you wanna preserve it behind glass for safe keeping.  All-in-all, I felt like this cut was absolutely one of the strongest in this lineup without a doubt.

Both “Catalyst” and the following cut “Suspense” had a few moments that sounded like what I’d imagine a band like Soul Coughing would be up to today if they were still makin’ music – and of course, that’s always awesome in my books…that’s the right kind of creative company to be keepin’ if you ask me.  “Suspense” is one of those real multi-dimensional & outright fascinating tunes…a real combination of undeniable art, creative freedom, and a mixture of the abstract & the tangible fused together as one.  Because I’ll be real with ya Soldier Rye – I’d be the first to admit that, there’s a large part of “Suspense” that’s well beyond what the people out there are accustomed to or used to…uniqueness is a great thing, but it’s always guaranteed to narrow the scope of the reach in anyone’s tunes too.  That being said, it’s usually right up my alley, so he’s safe here – and it’s the same thing that loyal fans seek out.  Soldier Rye is no stranger to versatility & varied sound – but there’s no real denying he’s pushed the threshold of those aspects hard with “Suspense” for sure, and much of this album as well.  What I love about “Suspense” in particular, is that in amongst all this artistic awesomeness, there’s also an incredibly strong hook buried into this track as well…and I suspect that once people find it in listening, even those on the fence would likely be onboard right away…it kinda makes this cut irresistible to all, not just those out there that dig on their artistically-inclined cuts like I personally do.  Like a free-form approach to making music that still has plenty of structure to hang onto…or like…live-action poetry, where he’s spillin’ all the thoughts that randomly come to his head along the journey…”Suspense” has a lot goin’ on for it, and one of the more rounded performances from Soldier Rye on the mic from start to finish.

I do worry that he might not have put quite enough spark in the energy of the album up front to keep some of ya listening intently though…we’re five tracks in, and the overall vibe of Plot Twist has been supremely laidback – I ain’t saying that I’M not digging it, I’m just pointing out the risk factor involved here in the layout.  I listen to a cut like “Haunted House” and admire the way that Soldier Rye has been trying out so many new things throughout the course of this new album already…these first five might not be as radio-friendly as we’ve heard him in the past, but there’s nothing about that fact that has anything to do with what defines a good song.  Think of it this way – if you’re going for atmospheric depth and real storylines in the music you make, you almost can’t argue that “Haunted House” is anything other than a completely focused & well-executed track in how it connects its theme to its vibe.  I’m gonna be as real with the man as I always am with you artists & bands out there though…he’s got some clashing tones in the layers of vocals on “Haunted House” that are gonna work against him a bit.  I think he’s goin’ for something a bit eerier than he normally goes for…and that’s a tough thing in itself to pull off, because Rye’s got a ton of natural sweetness in his vocals he’d have to battle against to do it.  So while the layers do help in that objective, I’m not quite sure we can claim mission fully accomplished here either in terms of its accessibility in the end results.  Vibe-wise, it’s freakin’ extraordinary – ideas-wise as well…like I said, there’s actually quite a bit to admire in terms of the writing, but I think Rye’s being hindered a little by some sonic textures and tones that are bound to haunt him later on.  Nothing so detrimental that it ever stopped me from listening – I like the ideas & words & story in “Haunted House” too much to ever wanna skip past it…he’s workin’ with that same kind of dissonance you’d find in NIN or Post-Punk in the vocal melody…as with many of these cuts, there are still many flashes of brilliance in what SR brings to the microphone, and a couple spots where a little more time spent on the effects, in the production, or in the performance become more noticeable.  There ain’t much space to hide in the spread-out sound of “Haunted House” though; anything we hear tends to become amplified.

Where I think the tides really start beginning to bend in an accessible direction, is right there past the halfway mark on “It Is What It Is” – this is more akin to the lively bounce we’ve experienced, know, and love from Soldier Rye, infused with the more pensive depth he’s applied to the songs on this new album.  It’s as contemplative & thought-provoking as it is entertaining & engaging – and personally, hearing Soldier Rye return to a more energetic gear was a real reminder of just how well this kinda pace & spark suits his strengths.  Even he’s still fairly melancholic and laidback energy-wise, but the song itself has really come alive through our speakers and raised up the excitement factor times ten for most listeners I’d assume – I’d imagine a track like this has no problem speaking on its own behalf, because “It Is What It Is.”  But you can feel it too, right Soldier Rye?  I don’t need to explain what you already know – there’s more universal appeal in this one cut than you’ll likely feel you found within the rest of the entire album.  This is where we recognize how making music becomes a conscious choice – Soldier Rye could sit around and bide his time, creatin’ & waitin’ for an entire lineup of cuts with the enticing appeal of “It Is What It Is” to come along – and who knows…maybe that keeps him waiting a lifetime, or at the very least, doesn’t help him check off whatever goals he’s looking to accomplish as an artist.  OR…you end up with a record that produces less predictable & varied results, like Plot Twist.  Some highlights, some creative explorations, some pass, some miss the mark just slightly – but the reward is in the journey itself – that’s the real Plot Twist of’em all dear readers, dear friends – and a valuable lesson that artists like Soldier Rye teach by the examples they set.  The addition of Steve_Eazie on the mic to bring some additional heat to the bars and spark to the energy was also a solid more – great collaboration between these two, all around, and there’s no question about that.  The stone cold reality of it all really comes down to the writing and hooks here though – “It Is What It Is” has the most memorable you’ll find on this album, and its positive hybrid vibe hits the mark with inspired & encouraging lyricism that the people out there will appreciate beaming through their headphones.  Strong cut here, no doubt – if I was Soldier Rye, I’d be takin’ a hard look at everything going right here, and takin’ real notes on it.  There’s something that this one cut has that the rest don’t seem to have…to the point where I’d almost be surprised if the court of public opinion didn’t instantly declare “It Is What It Is” as their favorite cut.

The shift in energy is payin’ off quick though – “Psychosomatic” ends up revealing another vibrant track that keeps the beat movin’ & groovin’ with the kind of crisp sound & movement people truly respond to.  I really like that, even as he’s shifting through these different spins on his sound throughout this album, he’s completely maintained a firm grip on how to go about adding an artistic dimension into every one of these songs, even the catchier cuts like “It Is What It Is” and “Psychosomatic.”  Just because the pulse gets raised doesn’t mean substance can’t come along with it…and Soldier Rye proves that to be true by adding in thought-provoking themes and ideas into his words on “Psychosomatic” whilst also givin’ ya something you can totally bust moves to as well.  Maybe it’s not Soul Coughing I was thinking so much of earlier…maybe it was more like what happened when their lead singer Mike Doughty and Electro-artist BT got together on “Never Gonna Come Back Down” – Soldier Rye’s got that kind of potential for sure.  “Psychosomatic” flexes a totally different sound, don’t get me wrong…but I’m tellin’ ya, there’s a viable comparison to be made to that collaboration in terms to the DNA required to make things stand out…Soldier Rye’s got the magic, that’s never been in question – it’s all about how it’s wielded.  As they always like to remind us, with great power comes great responsibility – tracks like “Psychosomatic” assure our ears that Rye is using his talents & creativity to max capacity.  An energetic combination of beat poetry, psychedelic Electro-Pop, and a savage dose of supreme swagger & style – “Psychosomatic” should be an easy sell to the ears out there listening from the whispered hush of SR’s vocals, to the brightest points of the chorus hooks and neon colors of the music continually amping-up our interest.

“U Do U.”  Gulp.  I might have to here.  I’m about as on the fence with this particular cut as I can ever remember feelin’ with Soldier Rye’s music…and I’m not all that sure if that’s gonna end up being a good thing or a bad thing in the long run if I’m being truthful.  You know how sometimes you listen to your favorite artists & bands put out a new song, and you’re not sure of it at all at first, yet in about a week or so, you’re mercilessly addicted to it?  I kinda feel like “U Do U” has that same potential…Soldier Rye’s in a strange gear on this cut…uniqueness can be as much of an advantage as a disadvantage sometimes.  What I’m hearing on this track is a song built for the message…but not necessarily a message built for the song, you follow me?  It could also be as simple as “U Do U” being one of the most recent tracks that Soldier Rye had written for Plot Twist – I have zero doubt that as time goes on, his ability to perform this cut with more of a cohesive fit with naturally come along.  As it stands right now, I hear an absolutely stellar idea, but a song that needs more time in the incubator before it can hatch as it should.  Lyrically, it’s right up there among my favorites from Soldier Rye, and I think a lot of people out there will dig on the empowering & confident theme that comes with “U Do U” for sure.  Instrumentation & music-wise & all that…same story as it has been – I love what I hear there, especially when the saxophone & backing vocals show up in the mix.  There’s still a ton to love about “U Do U” – and like I was tellin’ ya from the get-go, I might end up eating my words on this in less than a week’s time…maybe I end up as addicted to it as I feel like it has the potential to demand my attention…or maybe there’s a track in its earliest stages here that could still use the benefit of more time & experience.  I suspect, based on its subject, lyrics, and theme…that…well…I mean…it doesn’t REALLY matter what I say anyway, right?  “U Do U” – I Do Me.

I think a lot of listening to this latest cuts from Soldier Rye sound like he’s trying to find that balance between what he wants to sound like, and what he wants to say – and that’s not always an easy task for any artist or band out there, especially if they’re switching up a lot of their sound in the process like this dude has throughout Plot Twist.  We have to kind of recognize somewhat, that music is simply a vehicle for Soldier Rye to express his thoughts to a degree – the particular medium that allows him the freedom and opportunity to do that more than most ever could, you feel me?  So we don’t always end up feeling like the words are always specifically attached to the mood or the moment so much as they end up being a separate message being beamed out simultaneously through the microphone as the music plays – make sense?  In short, I’ve got some love for a track like “Dream Walking,” but I’m far from everybody, you dig?  There’s a mesmerizing & hypnotic vibe that works well in its favor, and also by that same token, this cut tends to feel like it’s floatin’ around a bit, wandering in search of that main hook and reason for us to return to it…and it’s tougher to say whether or not Soldier Rye gives you an audible one here that extends beyond his insightful words.  Soulpacifica shows up here in the credits once again, but I’m not quite convinced that’s gonna be enough to pull the masses onboard this time around – I think Soldier Rye has served up a tall ask of listeners out there with the conceptually-based sound of “Dream Walking” – but I do commend him all the same for the effort & the clarity found within the production.

As the curtains begin to close on this album and the lineup of songs comes to its conclusion with “Cliffhanger” – Soldier Rye is still mired in a somewhat melancholy energy and weary spirit.  He’s down, but as you’ll hear in his lyricism, he’s far from out, and still a relentless optimist in the face of the many obstacles still waiting in front of him, and in front of us all for that matter.  Energy-wise, I think there’s a good chance that the shifting, heavy moodiness of the pandemic era has seeped its way into Soldier Rye’s new record a bit more than he might have realized this time around…but the quality of the sound continues to be a major strength in what he creates as well.  You can’t beat that incredible rhythmic percussion he’s found to drive the beat of Cliffhanger” though, for the record.  All-in-all, I feel very much like Plot Twist is the kind of record that Soldier Rye needed to make in order to be able to breakthrough to that next one, if that makes any sense.  He’s very much driven by conceptual ideas here on this album, and less focused on the accessibility factor versus the art of making music – and while that’s a GREAT thing & always encouraged here at these pages of ours, there’s no question about the fact it can lead to more varied results from track to track.  “Cliffhanger” is a good tune to end it on…a reminder that the story continues on, long after the record or this experience in reading this review wraps up…we’re never-ending in that sense…bonded to time itself more than anything else.  We never know what’s coming next – and Soldier Rye’s in that exact same boat as the rest of us – he’s proven that we won’t always be able to predict where he’ll twist the direction of his music next, and I personally dig that.  If I was a betting man, I’d tell ya that the NEXT Soldier Rye album is going to be the best one he’s put out yet…mark my words y’all – I think what he learns from this record will take him to another level.

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