Multi-instrumentalist Ryan Conrad, who is based in Santa Cruz, California specializes in writing indie pop/rock songs. Just two years ago he began recording and producing the songs that would be included on his first EP release academic trap. He also mixed and mastered this first five-song collection using nothing but Logic Pro X. The upbeat indie style of the music is juxtaposed with darker emotional themes of drug use, loss of friends and family and mental instability – you may hear echoes of Boy Pablo or The Growlers. As a whole, academic trap explores the struggles and shortcomings of getting that all-important college degree.
With the opener “Long for you” I could hear sounds of the darker “beach goth” influences that Conrad describes his work as. I thought some of his guitar sounds were very familiar to what I remember hearing on The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. Even some of the beginning drum parts have an island feel to them. But Conrad also cleverly brings his guitar sounds and mixes them with melodies and beats that remind me of ‘80s new wave pop with a psychedelic twist.
The lyrics “Dirty Broccoli” may be metaphors for drug use or feelings of inadequacies as a young adult. Musically, I thought this one sounded like Arcade Fire in some ways. “Morning routine (interlude)” is a nice, mellow instrumental that ebbs and flows in a dreamy way with its gentle rhythmic guitars and bass lines. The fuzzier drum beat offers something unique and ragged among the quieter tones of the guitars. The melody and arrangements on “What’s your plan” really reminded me of ‘80s new wave but also, a resurgence of ‘60s feel good pop, from such bands as The Rascals. Conrad did a nice job on this one for sure.
The last number “In my head” has a more subdued feel with darker guitar sounds and lower drum beats. About midway through Conrad flips the switch on his amp and distorts the sound of his guitar for just a bit, harkening back to earlier sounds of Radiohead. The balance of light and dark tones and the clips of narration made for a great ending. All in all, academic trap offers well-rounded samples and genre styles that cover a lot of ground from this west coast musician.
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