REVIEW: Ryan Bingham – ‘Tomorrowland’
Ryan Bingham released his debut solo album, Tomorrowland, on his own label, Axter Bingham Records. A risky move for any musician, it was paramount that Bingham come out with a successful, long-lasting album, and it is safe to say that he has done so. Tomorrowland explores many aspects of human emotion, and Bingham’s relentless arrangements will leave a long-lasting impression by the time the final song ends.
“Beg for Broken Legs” has an explosive blues-rock attitude from the first lick on acoustic guitar. Electric guitar and a dominating drum set come into accompany it after the first chorus, adding more fuel for the fire. The lyrics are defiant, and so is Ryan Bingham’s hoarse voice. While his voice doesn’t fit the mold, neither does his music, so the relationship works. With dramatic builds and string accompaniments, “Beg for Broken Legs” is a great opener to a well-written album.
“Western Shore” slows the tempo down, but in a well-executed manner. The song contains drive, passion, and a build of it’s own. The song doesn’t use easily predictable break down sections, and while the use of strings evokes a Led Zeppelin feel at some points, overall, Ryan Bingham has a great sound of his own that doesn’t pander to the formula of simple pop music.
“Flower Bomb” is a reflective political song, which is so refreshing to hear, mainly because of the manner that it’s done in. The messages found in this song are messages typically found in punk and hip-hop songs, and while I can’t deny my affinity for those styles, the mood which Bingham sets really allows you to reflect on his lyrics. This is a deep and meaningful song, and the last lyrics, “relieve the pain so the good can grow”, represent the song’s overall message well.
“Guess Who’s Knockin’” is a blues-rock song that is all about being reckless. The message here is “get out of my way”, both lyrically and stylistically. The low horns emphasize the dreadful feel of the song as they trudge along through the verses. I would love to see this song played in a southern bar with some whiskey.
“Heart of Rhythm” has a very unique classic rock feel to it with an upbeat drumbeat and quick lyrics. The chorus emphasizes the twang felt in the verses, and the song definitely has a back home quality to it.
“I Heard ‘Em Say” is stop-and-go blues-rock song that has a solid groove coursing through it. The rhythm section provides an attitude that gives the lyrics more of a punch, which highlights Ryan Bingham’s songwriting ability.
Through “Rising of the Ghetto”, Bingham wants you to hear the pains of living in a ghetto. The voice that would call for the rising of the ghetto wouldn’t be a clean yell, but would be a loud, grungy voice wailing after years of struggle. Ryan Bingham knows how to portray real emotion in his vocal parts, and it is easy to get lost in the emotional instrumental build that comes near the end of the song.
“No Help From God” has some of the same great characteristics of “Rising of the Ghetto”. The song leaves a lot of space for Bingham’s voice to cut through and echo hauntingly. The lazy guitar solo emphasizes the somber message of the song, and again, Ryan Bingham knows what it takes to gain empathy from the listener. The acoustic guitar set up also provides a very specific mood, especially with brushstroke drumming playing behind it. The bell toll at the end of the song is eerie, and adds a great touch to the song’s overall impact.
“Keep It Together” is a perfect mood-lifter and an excellently placed song after having two slower songs in a row. The track is at a great tempo to get you back into the groove that Ryan Bingham’s band can produce, without it being to overpowering. I love the use of harmonies, as they accentuate the upbeat mood set by the backup instrumentation.
“Never Far Behind” really accents an important piece of Ryan Bingham that sets him apart from a great deal of musicians today, which is his use of time. He’s not afraid to have a 6-minute long song with an extended solo section, and that’s pretty damn cool.
“The Road I’m On” picks the tempo right back up with a rambling, upbeat folk song. This is definitely road trip material, and an excellent song to follow “Never Far Behind” with. A quick little jam reminds the listener that Bingham can bust out a solo on the faster songs, too.
“Never Ending Show” relays Ryan Bingham’s take on music and gaining fame. He offers an important perspective in the song title alone, alluding to the “scene” as a never-ending show. The message, along with the Bingham’s haggard voice, really stresses his point of how dragged down pursuing the spotlight can make you feel. The song has a brilliant pause in it towards the end, making the listener think the song is over, only to come back in with a slight burst of energy. This is just great song writing, representing the never-ending show in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
“Too Deep to Fill” is a classic blues protest song, with a picking acoustic guitar and soft percussion. Again, it shows that Ryan Bingham isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind, and that’s not so easily found in music today. His lyrics are also different from the norm in that he doesn’t use many metaphors when he writes songs. This allows you to understand exactly what message he’s trying to get across when he is singing a song, which, in my opinion, is why his songs have the potential to leave long-lasting impressions on his listeners.
Tomorrowland is a great indication of what Ryan Bingham can do on his own. He does not shy away from writing songs that are opinionated, and tries to offer a perspective that few artists take the time to appreciate. This album is an example of what meaningful songwriting is meant to be, as it encompasses two main goals of music: to have fun and to make people think.