“Someday I’ll say I was wrong to feel so overcome”
I fully believe that artists see the world differently. They are storytellers who put intangible feelings and human experiences into words the rest of us never could, allowing us to connect on new levels. William Ryan Key has always been one of those voices of inspiration and his latest EP is another reason why. Virtue captures intense rushes of emotion from the singer-songwriter’s life to take us all on a new journey.
The EP is poignant, raw, and filled with a yearning for something more. With “Mortar and Stone” it seems Key is searching for his way back home in order to find meaning again. “It feels like I’ve been here before,” he sings over a warm acoustic melody, placing you on the sidewalk with him as he traces the streets of his past. And he finds a place close to his heart in “The Bowery”. The song is a love letter to New York, pulsing with a quiet beat that gives power to the city’s highs and heartbreaks and all the different kinds of love you can find there.
For the most part the music is led by Key and an acoustic guitar, letting the words take hold. When he uses other instruments he does so sparingly—it takes your breath away and underscores the importance of each song’s message. When the title track hits it is visceral. “Virtue” begins with the acoustic tones of the previous songs before exploding with piercing riffs and staccato drum beats that cut deep. You’ll feel the grief of a relationship you’re not ready to let go of yet. But ultimately where there’s loss there’s always light. Follow-up “Downtown (Up North)” takes you far away, to a simpler time where all you have is hope to keep you holding on.
Closing track “No More, No Less” brings the EP together with the full range of Key’s musicianship. Building slowly, moving from doubt to resolution, the song takes off into a more complex sound of spiralling guitars and a beat you can march to. “I’ve found my home, I’ll drift alone / Doesn’t matter what you say,” Key sings, and it fills you up like a promise—to keep moving forward no matter what. Virtue is a roadmap of everywhere Key has been and it lays out the future of his next adventure (and we’re ready to get lost in it).
Buy it, Stream it, or Skip it?: Buy it and take a journey with Virtue.