DJ Ryan Hemsworth proves good things can last

Scott Ostrin, Music Columnist

As Mayfest continues to reveal its planned artists for Dillo Day on May 31, I continue to shrivel in fear of what can possibly lie in wait. 2 Chainz was such a resoundingly poor decision in my opinion (you’d know if you read last week’s edition of The Current). If Mayfest is capable of revealing someone laughably bad, certainly someone else 2 Chainz-esque could be around the corner, right?

Well, Mayfest’s latest website reveal left me uttering an emphatic “Huh?” which is a definite improvement from last week’s deflation and exasperation. But the mystery box that was Ryan Hemsworth, a relatively unknown DJ from Canada— he’s won a Juno, known as a Canadian Grammy, which is about as relevant as the Canadian Football League — turned out to contain a consistently enjoyable and versatile artist with room for growth. Color me surprised, Mayfest. Color me surprised.

Sadly, though, this means that (other than that cheap shot at the Junos) there will be no jokes made at the expense of the artist this week. Let’s hope it stays this way.

Since Hemsworth is fairly new on the scene (starting in 2010), I’m going to skip the introduction step of the review and get right to the juicy bits. If you’d like to see my carefully crafted excerpts from Hemsworth’s interviews or Twitter account (@ryanhemsworth), you could do yourself one better and just bone up on them. You should: The guy’s funny and relatable.

Hemsworth has played with two different styles between 2011’s LP “Distorted” and 2013’s LP “Guilt Trips,” with 2011’s EP “No Plans” being his most wide-ranging stylistically.

“Distorted” focuses on fast, aggressive and percussive sounds and rapid-fire rap delivery from Shady Blaze, Hemsworth’s co-collaborator. Songs such “Mile A Minute” or “Let’s Ride” frequently throb with bass or distortion. Shady Blaze’s lyrics alternate between quick and breathy or bursting with crackling energy. This style would be right at home with the other rap artists at Dillo Day. I actually think Mayfest could’ve brought Hemsworth as the second rap artist and saved one of the five slots should he decide to perform primarily with this style. OK, I’ve shed my tears. Now let’s move on.

“Guilt Trips” pulls back from the speed of 2011 and dives into a more aquatic sound. With muffled sounds pervading this album, like rippling percussion on “Yaeko Mitamura Is Lonely” and water droplet sounds on “Weird Life,” Hemsworth gives this LP an underwater feel while still weaving in triumphant synths and emotive singing, such as on “Still Cold.” It’s overall a more meaningful project than 2011’s “Distorted,” thanks mostly to Hemsworth being on his own on this one. And sure it can get schmaltzy at times, with its over-saturation of one particular atmosphere, but I can get behind his attempt at doing something wholly cohesive while still attempting to branch out creatively.

And then there’s 2011’s EP “No Plans,” which is of LP length, oddly enough. This collection contains my favorite song of the DJ’s discog. All-too-knowingly called “Good Things Can Never Last,” this not-quite-three-minute track is easily his best. Taking a page from R&B and soul, there’s funky, subtle bass (not every song can, nor ought to subjugate your entire being to bass), haunting crooning and delightful play between muted and thumping percussion. The rest of the album is more standard fare, although never conforming quite as rigidly to any particular style like on the other two albums. If I had to recommend one of these works above the rest, it would be “No Plans,” no questions.

So it seems we have a two-thirds success rate, in my opinion. Can Mayfest bat .800 and deliver on the next two artists? Stay tuned, and keep hitting that refresh button. In the meantime, listen to “Good Things Can Never Last,” damnit!

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @scottostrin22