EP REVIEW: William Ryan Key – Virtue

Back in May 2018, William Ryan Key released his debut EP Thirteen and just six months on he’s back with follow up EP Virtue.  The former Yellowcard frontman has put his heart on his sleeve during the release, full of every feeling from euphoric happiness to crushing sadness. We had a listen to the EP and here’s what we thought of the six tracks.

The Same Destination acts as a short introduction to the release, the piano-driven track is incredibly simple yet strangely powerful. We feel as if we’re drifting through the skies on a journey to somewhere new and exciting; that place is the main part of the EP. Mortar and Stone introduces some plucky guitars and William Ryan Key’s serenading vocals, however it’s nothing out of the ordinary and soon becomes one of the more forgettable tracks on the release. The guitar work is the focal point here, the slick lines swirl around in your head when the vocals have long gone.

We find ourselves immediately drawn to The Bowery, the first single from the EP, singing of his love for the street in Manhattan’s East Village and his love for the city of New York as a whole. There’s a sense of reflection in the lyrics, but also sadness at what things have become: “Who do I think I am, Rushing in where I can’t win,” is an example of the real sincerity that is evident throughout the release. Title-track Virtue is an out pour of acoustic guitars, which is never a bad thing, and crashing waves of percussion. Lyrically this release is a true gem, singing of the issues faced in life with a poetic undertone. Here it tackles the aftermath of a break-up, in which one party is finding it harder to move on m than the other: “Still not out of the cold but I pretend all of this had a warm and graceful end.” The latter part of the track confirms it’s the standout of the release with heavier guitars, entwined lyrics and a reflective atmosphere.

The penultimate track Downtown (Up North) offers a completely new atmosphere, an upbeat and jollier affair which will fit perfectly on your summer playlists. This is one of the real ballads, singing of a love that changes everything: “I may be tired all these years lost in love,”  and you can’t help but smile as you get behind the emotions. Closing track No More, No Less returns to the darker vibe, bringing the pace back down and combining it with partially crackled vocals. It feels like everything has turned black as a sadness surrounds us: “Am I gonna survive when I’m out in the wild, am I gonna belong?” Determined to go out on a high there’s a rapid build up to a bold musical section with heavy guitars and driving drums, giving the full musical journey experience.

Virtue might not be breaking any new ground, but William Ryan Key has created a poetic, musical masterpiece. Not only are you given musical delights but also the opportunity to develop a visual story around the songs, which makes this an all-round enjoyable experience. This is the great follow up to Thirteen, showing growth both personally and musically and giving promise for the next EP which, who knows, could be right around the corner? We really do hope so!


Standout Track: Virtue

For Fans Of: Daughter, Like Torches, Of Monsters And Men

Written by: Nicola Craig

Nicola Craig
Head of Live with an unwavering love for the seaside, live music and writing about others instead of myself. Twitter: @nicolalalalar