Bill Ryder-Jones has definitely been keeping busy since his 2008 departure from psychedelic folk-rock band The Coral. After releasing two solo albums – including a debut featuring the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – the English singer-songwriter wrote an entire record’s worth of material, before scrapping the project completely. His third album, West Kirby County Primary, is a gloriously stripped-back collection of songs which melds lo-fi alt-rock with bittersweet folk, an unhurried celebration of Ryder-Jones’s personal world featuring some truly remarkable moments.
Recorded in the bedroom of Ryder-Jones’s childhood home, there’s a grittily intimate tone to both the subject matter and production quality of the songs. A raw, stripped-back quality permeates the album, with percussion kept minimal and a languid vocal tone featured heavily throughout. An emotional frankness is also very evident through the record, with lush instrumentation at times concealing bleak subject matter. The song Daniel, for instance, addresses the death of his older brother when Ryder-Jones was just seven, while melancholic lyrics of Satellites (“I wasted all my time/I wasted yours as well”) are accompanied by dynamic shifts and a rousing chord structure which invokes early Pixies.
The album is stylistically varied, but skilfully so; leaping from strength to strength, it lulls in places and stands defiantly in others. Ryder-Jones demonstrates an incredible musical ability, but more impressive is his restraint. The clean melodic lines of his music allows his sheer talent to shine through, with each note carefully executed rather than added for decoration’s sake. By turns triumphant and beautiful, West Kirby County Primary delivers a poignancy which is sure to reverberate with its audience long after its conclusion.