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Rarely does that intensity turn inward, toward self-reflection; even less often does intensity burn as movingly and as poetically as Matthew Ryan does on his unflinchingly intense and reflective East Autumn Grin, his second album for A&M Records. "Nothing is sacred as long as you're bored," Ryan sings in "Me and My Lover," pointedly skewering his generation while displaying how he's different. To Ryan, while love and being true to oneself is obviously sacred, that doesn't make it easy. In brooding, dynamic songs that recall U2, the Smiths and the Waterboys, Ryan uses his smoky, tense voice to explore his desires, fears and mistakes with a passion that's as undeniable as it is powerful.

Of course, intensity need not be conveyed in crashing guitar chords. The quiet beauty of Dolly Varden's exquisite The Dumbest Magnets unfolds with an unsettling air that's as intense as the silence between two embattled lovers. A Chicago quintet, Dolly Varden can speak of simple pleasures, too, as when addressing the natural comforts of relaxing without words with a lover. But the sound of desperation always lurks behind the spare notes in the band's restrained arrangements and fragile harmonies. Led by the husband-and-wife team of Stephen Dawson and Diane Christiansen, Dolly Varden understands that there can be as much passion in a whisper as in a scream.

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 9 - September 7821
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