Everything’s Nothing, Nothing is Everything by Ryan Knowles is a continuation of his previous album A Spoonful of Sugar,” which was a DIY effort that had a number of good songs but at the same time suffered from shoddy production work that plagued the album. Although far from perfect this album sounds better overall in regards to songwriting as well as quality. That being said it still suffers from occasional production issues such as digital clicks and dynamic inconsistencies. The songs here are simple and usually revolve around just one instrument such as piano or guitar. Simplicity is not a bad thing and more often than not it works on the album although there were a couple of instrumental pieces that I think would have benefited from more instruments.
The album starts with one of the best songs on the album entitled “The Twelfth Floor, ” which is a pleasant, delicately picked melody on acoustic guitar. His guitar picking style is nonchalant and almost feels appropriately lazy. The vocals could have been treated better but overall the song is solid. The second song “Falling” is an instrumental piece that features one acoustic guitar. An impressive array of nontraditional chord structures are introduced nonetheless the song falls a bit short and a full ensemble of instruments would have helped. “The Jumper”s Friend” tells the story of someone committing suicide in a somewhat comical and graphic description. He sings “in my life and the pavement you sure made a dent” which is sort of funny or just in bad taste, however you want to look at it. A short instrumental piano ballad called “O Vos Omnes” shoots right past melancholy and heads towards despair. “Nothing” is very dismal and if Knowles did not mention that these songs were written from a third person perspective I would be a bit worried. The song never gets uplifting and seems content staying in the darkness.
The best song on the album is “Hazel Tree” which contains nice harmonies, a pleasant guitar melody and makes you feel good while listening to it. It became apparent to me that Knowles’ strengths seem to lie in songs that rely on delicate guitar picking and vocal harmonies, something that wasn't utilized nearly enough on this album. While this album is better than his previous effort, its flow is still not consistent. Knowles is getting better and showing progress. I’m excited to see how he matures and finds his style in the future.
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