Ryan Mitchell-Smith,
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
(independent, 2015)

Are You Sitting Comfortably? is the brainchild of Ryan Mitchell-Smith, a renowned Yorkshire-based multi-instrumentalist. Not only did Mitchell-Smith play every instrument on the album, he also produced and engineered the project in his home-based studio, ensuring if there was a sound in his head that was needed on the album, he would incorporate it into the production -- even if he had to learn the instrument in order to achieve that.

This in itself is a huge accomplishment, but to do this when you have a debilitating illness that prevented you from walking for five months is a mammoth feat. Rather than wallow in his illness and pain, Mitchell-Smith turned making this album into a type of music therapy, which inspired him and made him even more creative while slowly improving his health.

This album is extremely eclectic, which appeals hugely to me as someone who has diverse tastes. The songs on the album vary from pop, jazz and folk-rock to instrumental. His guitar work is gorgeous, and there is an extremely organic feel to the entire production with color, tone and dynamics flourishing throughout the work.

My album favorites begin with the quirky song "Complicated," which has a bit of a Wings and 10cc retro feel to it with a dash of '80s electropop.

Next comes "Diddly Dudi Yabadu Dadi Dey-Dey." As a jazz buff and Steely Dan fan, I hear the influence of both traditional jazz and Donald Fagen. The scat is contagious, and even jazz non-believers will be guaranteed to be doing a free association scataway. The addition of double bass gives it a rich flavor and giving it a 5/4 timing gives it a particularly bouncy feel. Even though Ryan takes you into another genre, the song fits perfectly into the full blend of songs on the album, not detracting from its feel.

"The Pilot" is my favorite song on the album. It actually gives me chills to listen to it. I love the percussive tapping and an almost oriental riffing against it. Lyrically stunning, it radiates optimism, love and passion. "The Pilot" and the test run are metaphorically symbolizing the breaking of barriers despite feelings of trepidation and doubt.

Even though these particular tracks stood out to me, I can honestly say that all the tracks are of an extremely high calibre. If this is an example of where music is going in 2015, we are all in for a treat.

music review by
Risa Duff

21 March 2015

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