Bill Ryder-Jones – Yawn

Bill Ryder-Jones returns with an immersive, melancholic fourth solo-effort retaining the sincerity and intimacy that have characterised his post-Coral work

Album Review by Fraser MacIntyre | 30 Oct 2018
  • Bill Ryder-Jones – Yawn
Album title: Yawn
Artist: Bill Ryder-Jones
Label: Domino
Release date: 2 Nov

Yawn is not a reinvention of Bill Ryder-Jones himself, and that’s something to be thankful for. During an interview while promoting 2015’s West Kirby County Primary, he detailed his hopes for that album “to mean something” when listened to in the bedroom specifically; where listeners are arguably more honest with themselves and open to an experience bereft of “pretence”.

While this effort sees him delve deeper than ever into the melancholia that has long permeated his work, it is still a quintessential Ryder-Jones — it feels bizzarely wrong not to call him ‘Bill’, but we aren't pals and it would be journalistic heresy to do so — release in its complete disregard for ego and falsities. Intimate, immersive and likely to resonate deeply with anyone who has struggled with mental health issues, Yawn feels almost tailor-made to be absorbed and appreciated in solitude or very close company. His eye for detail as sharp as ever, Ryder-Jones weaves the wry, bittersweet observations and confessions his listeners crave into each song beautifully, while also delivering a few welcome surprises; including the subtle, wandering synth-line found in reflective gem There’s Something on Your Mind.

Rod Skip’s cello is a heavy, mournful presence on the Kozelek-esque Recover. 'I left you there with nothing to believe in,' Ryder-Jones confesses, the regret in his voice palpable. Time Will Be the Only Saviour feels like a Lost in Translation OST contender unfortunately written over a decade and a half too late, and introduces layers of ambient guitar that will feature prominently on John (a moving, cinematic meditation on loss) and No One’s Trying To Kill You, which unfortunately feels a little static and overly reliant on sentiment.

'You said something perfect / With six words and one kiss,' Ryder-Jones sings on the modestly anthemic Don’t Be Scared, I Love You before pulling away from the microphone to quietly repeat 'six words and one kiss' to spine-tingling effect. There Are Worse Things I Could Do borrows a few lines from Grease before snatching joy and possibility from self-consciousness and uncertainty. 'There are worse things I have done / Than gone out and had some fun / It doesn’t happen every time,' he sings; uplifting yet still retaining a sense of grounded scepticism. Timely and worthwhile, in our age of callous and anonymous online judgement and labelling, to write a song about shaking off the scorn of others. 

The ex-Coral songwriter is unafraid to experiment on Yawn, and – aside from a few songs that lose a little of their immediacy due to similar tempos and an abundance of shoegaze guitar – the likes of Mither ('Is that your key in the door / Nothing else would mean more') showcase Ryder-Jones as one of the most distinctive, comforting and essential voices we have.

Listen to: Recover, There's Something on Your Mind, Don’t Be Scared, I Love You