Ryan Power looks like Jesus and sounds like a hunky angel. His cheeky, cheesy press shots suggest he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he’s apparently a good guy too: he recently moved temporarily from New Hampshire to Arkansas just to help his Katrina victim brother get his storm-damaged life back on track. He seems like the kind of too-perfect person bitter, cynical old bastards like me are predisposed to hate, but even I want to marry the dude. On top of all this, he’s an immensely talented songwriter and producer, and prolific too; although the past few decade has been spent toiling away in relative obscurity, latest offering I Don’t Want To Die (previously available at live shows and now given a proper release by the NNA Tapes label) is actually the Burlington, Vermont native’s fifth album. It’s a big leap forward from Power’s folk-tinged earlier work, though, with guitars replaced by keyboards and soulful electronic pop that leans heavily on the radio-friendly sound of suddenly in-vogue smoothies Steely Dan and Scritti Politti, and also tips its hat to contemporary mischief-makers like Hot Chip and Ariel Pink. Opener “I Don’t Care” is low-BPM cyber-jazz, a neon-lit ballad for the wee small (post-club) hours, and like much of the album recalls the kaleidoscopic prog-pop of the Dirty Projectors, with a choir of disembodied mini-Powers looped to form a lush backdrop for the singer’s velvety croon. With its galloping Linn drums and bubbling midi-bass, “Mondo Rush” sounds like a more upbeat Junior Boys, whilst “Transition Possible” is a cleverly arranged collision of twisting time signatures and throughout the eight-song set Power’s production prowess (“Rag Rug” is composed almost entirely of synth stabs and sampled beatboxing; “The Knowhow” is an explosion of breakneck Aphex Twin style drum and bass) is clear to see. But it’s his mellow melancholy and warped sense of humour that adds infinite replay value; the title track adds a dollop of Todd Rundgren’s plastic blue-eyed soul, whilst “The Way It’s Always Been” – which starts with the brilliant, tongue-in-cheek line “I want to fuck every girl I see” and goes on to describe in fine detail a series of disastrous sexual exploits – would sit nicely on a mixtape between Jim O’Rourke’s “Get A Room” and, well, anything by Jarvis Cocker. A delightful, well-rounded triumph of an album that should – hopefully – shine the spotlight on a singular talent too long in the shadows.
I Don’t Want To Die is out April 10 on NNA Tapes