Soldier Rye is a singer and songwriter born and raised in Long Island, New York but now residing in Los Angeles. As a creative teenager, he found himself writing songs and making music with whatever he could get his hands on. Due to the development of affordable audio technology in later years, he was able to progress these recordings to a higher standard. When he was introduced to a music producer, he realized he could truly fulfill his musical ambitions and creativity. The result is this electro pop album based around his original demos.
The album, Antenna, consists of nine tracks and begins with the title track. It’s the perfect introduction to his signature sound; a modern synth-driven form of dance/electro pop with elements and influences stretching back to the 70’s, yet sounding undeniably cutting edge and of the times. Starting with sparse, enigmatic synth the arrangement gradually builds with a syncopated beat and Soldier Rye’s strong, distinctive vocal style.
Also incorporated are Giorgio Moroder-style swirling synth patterns and subtle female backing vocals that add to the texture. The song itself is slick and slinky with a fantastic chorus, bringing to mind artists like Pharrell Williams and Jason Derulo. A great start to the album.
Second track Cookie Cutter uses the same effective Prince-style kick and snare beat, this one featuring some funky Rhodes electric piano which gives it more of a Stevie Wonder vibe. The track has an infectious energy, aided by insistent tambourine and a bouncy bassline. Lyrically, it’s about making the most of who you are and the life you’ve been given, captured succinctly on the excellent chorus: “Ain’t gonna be no cookie cutter, ain’t gonna watch you throw it all away….”.
Time Waits For No One is a nice change of pace, an epic R&B/modern pop ballad with a vaulting, haunting lead vocal melody. The music has an exotic, almost Indian flavour, with subtle use of sitars (or similar) which complement the strings along with rich, layered backing harmonies. Commercial yet original, it sounds like an obvious choice as a single and a potentially huge hit.
The following Tomorrow is a similar tempo, but is different once again. It’s a sunny, upbeat R&B track that proves Soldier Rye can come up with consistently strong and memorable hooks. This is what separates the ‘men from the boys’ in songwriting terms. Again, with its irresistible catchiness and funky groove, it’s another potential single.
9th Sign maintains the funky vibe. It’s built around a sharp guitar riff, a superbly rhythmic bassline and interspersed with rich organ. The lyrics have a Prince-like level of sexual confidence, apparent from the opening lines: “You say I’m a good kisser, I know I am…”. It’s another perfectly executed funk pop track with a fine guitar solo.
We Found Us is one of the most inventive tracks and perhaps the most cutting edge, production wise. Based round a revolving piano sample and intricate syncopated rhythms, it builds into a fantastic arrangement with touches of xylophone and brass, adding to the rich instrumental texture. It’s also perhaps the most instant track, with an addictive title hook that you’ll be singing by the end.
Seventh track Comfortable continues the high quality, this one with a ‘Funky Drummer’ style groove and slick wah-wah guitar. The chorus is gloriously expansive and Soldier Rye gets to showcase the upper register of his voice.
The epic pop of Eyes Of Love is a return to the more synth-heavy sound that characterized the early part of the album and features some futuristic production effects. The moody style and epic vibe brought to mind the excellent late 80’s work of Depeche Mode. A real grower.
The album concludes with Afterworld, perhaps the spiritual and deeply emotional song here. Soldier Rye gives a superb vocal performance, especially on the hugely uplifting chorus. Its augmented by choral female backing harmonies that give it an almost celestial feel. Lyrically, it’s about losing a loved one and the hope that you will see them again on the other side: “In the afterworld you’re watching over me…”. A genuinely moving song and a lovely way to finish.
Overall, this is undoubtedly the best pop album I’ve heard this year. Soldier Rye has created a consistently strong set of songs that incorporate funk, soul, dance and jazz into the mix. Equally adept at writing upbeat and uptempo songs along with epic ballads, Soldier Rye deserves to be recognised as a singer and songwriter of the finest calibre.
VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10