Ryan Wasoba's Music for No Reason: Read the Homespun Review and Listen
It probably comes as no surprise that about half of your music critic friends here at Riverfront Times have, at one time or another, performed in working bands themselves. The same drive that leads to critical analysis or championing/deriding new music dovetails with a desire to write and play music as well. As a rule, though, most people do either one or the other well (dilettantism is a hazard of both professions, after all). Ryan Wasoba may be the exception. He has been a contributing music writer for this paper for a few years, but he's better known as a founding member of So Many Dynamos, though he left that band after the release of The Loud Wars. His writing for the RFT is both dorkily nitpicky and thoughtfully introspective on the role of music in his life, and he brings that same focus and musical navel-gazing to Music for No Reason, his first post-Dynamos release.
From these song titles alone, it's clear that Wasoba is using his sharp wit and keen eye to continue his dissection of musical tropes and slavish adherence to tradition. Opener "Book of Clichés" follows the great tradition of songs about songs, and like Art Brut and Destroyer before him, Wasoba manages to make a pretty compelling pop song about making compelling pop songs. "The Blues Mean Nothing to Me" is as close as he comes to a ballad, and it's a funny, biting takedown of the form (in its current form, at least). It also has the EP's best line, which plays on the Robert Johnson mythos: "All the devil can afford is twelve bars and three chords/It must be the economy."
When Wasoba has served as a recording engineer or producer for other local bands' records, his recordings could come off as either thin or jumbled in places, but here he uses the one-man band approach to good effect; there's a charming four-track quality in places, but his craft and musical know-how is evident from the first cut. These are guitar-based songs with little embellishment, save for an omnipresent, occasionally grating marimba that helps channel Raymond Scott in these modest, post-Pavement songs. As he did in So Many Dynamos, Wasoba still writes twisting, serpentine guitar lines, but sharp turns and corners have been softened, and these solo songs follow a more straight-ahead pop trajectory. As a singer, he has a fine, clear voice that shows a little of Ben Gibbard's lilt but without those damnable elongated vowels. It helps that Wasoba has no interest (on this EP, at least) in transmitting emotions; he'd rather throw darts and celebrate musical obsessions.