Album Review: Ryn Weaver, ‘The Fool’
In 2014, hip-hop was full of internet-fueled overnight successes: Previously-unknown rappers like Dej Loaf, iLoveMakonnen, and Bobby Shmurda had radio hits, thanks to sudden flares of internet interest and well-placed, influential supporters. These sorts of eruptions are less common in pop, but Ryn Weaver was an exception to the rule. She put out a song called “Octahate” last summer that attracted glowing press and, more importantly, millions of plays and views, propelling the song onto the charts for a few weeks.
This sort of emergence certainly helps an unknown singer make more money and land a record deal, but it’s not clear yet if it benefits the art. You could imagine it going both ways. In a positive scenario, an artist has new resources at her disposal, which allow her to fully realize her idiosyncratic vision. But maybe the pressure of chasing the initial viral buzz warps the creative process that generated the spark in the first place.
“Octahate” aimed to be uber-modern with its brittle, needling pop melody and placid hip-hop beat. The hook is the stuff of EDM, an unadulterated burst of fed-up-ness that builds into a torrent of cathartic disgust. The combination is effective but not necessarily distinctive, with production that comes close to overwhelming the singer. (By contrast, if you listen to Dej Loaf’s “Try Me” or Makonnen’s “Tuesday,” the uniqueness of the performers is seared into your brain.)
It turns out that “Octahate” is a ploy, mostly unrelated to the sound the singer favors on her debut album, The Fool: gentle, spacious guitar pop flavored with synthesizers. Songs like “Sail On” and “Pierre” set the tone, pretty and plodding towards hooks that hope to be grand. Weaver enters a crowded field here, competing against a slew of bands that all comes equipped with clean, arresting hooks, a sense of economy, and a belief in crisp production.
An exception to this trend is the title track, which bears the same bright, manipulated vocals that characterized late-‘00s Passion Pit -- an unavoidable comparison, since Weaver worked with Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos. “The Fool,” which comes as a late-album surge of energy, seems pitched as the sequel to “Octahate.” But generally, the further Weaver gets from that song, the more she stands out. Take “Here Is Home,” a bubble of late-‘70s soft rock that ambles along, pleasant and slightly shabby, with touches of Fleetwood Mac's “Dreams.”
Other internet wunderkinds should take note: The sound that first attracted attention may not be the key to longevity.