Moncton, NB emerging band Dillon Ryan & The Dream Romantic are no strangers to us here at Team GDW, first appearing on our pages back in April 2020 with their impressive single, “So Lovely,” and once again in May 2021 with “The Story.” Describing their music as a marriage of dreamy pop melodies and introspective lyrics with a gothic rock sound, Dillon Ryan & The Dream Romantic are firmly rooted in the post-punk, new-wave era of synth driven melodic guitar rock – naming acclaimed acts such as The Smiths, New Order, and Echo and the Bunnymen as some of their primary influences.
These last few weeks have been incredibly busy for Dillon Ryan and his band, making an appearance at the prestigious East Coast Music Awards (ECMA) in early May, before performing at Paddlefest (one of New Brunswick’s largest musical gatherings) just two weeks later, and sharing a bill with esteemed acts such as Christina Martin, Old Man Luedecke, and David Myles. Memorable moments for sure, but now that we have transitioned into early June, Dillon is equally excited to share his debut solo acoustic album, “Dreaming Of Love (One More Time),” which dropped this past Wednesday.
For this solo venture, Dillon sought the expertise of indie, metal, and rock producer James McClafferty (bass/keyboards) at Mobian Productions in Miramichi, NB to record, mix, and master the album. The resulting seven new tracks being offered are all written by Dillon, with the exception of “Up In Lights,” the opening track which he co-wrote with John Ryan. “I’ve probably collaborated with James more times that with any other musician. We’ve don tons of YouTube videos and one-off singles over the years, as well as James being a past member of our band,” Dillon shares. “However, this is the first time we’ve ever done an entire record together. Both of us appreciate and bond over a ton of different musical influences so I think I could [have] said ‘let’s make any sort of record,’ and we’d both have a ton of ideas for it.”
The album kicks off with “Up In Lights,” which proves to be the perfect opener – Dillon’s initial minimalist keys quickly joined by McClafferty’s bass licks, before capping things with Dillon’s enticing vocals. “You wanna look into the crowds / As you play your music loud / You want to take the world by storm / You want your name to be the norm.” Remaining true to his own musical persona, Dillon (guitars/keys/vocals) establishes a stunning tone and tempo from the off-set, wrapped up in this synth-driven, neo-new romanticist package. “Some day it’ll all come true / Someday, something new / You’ll spin your web far and wide / You’ll take yourself a wild ride / I wanna be up in lights / I wanna be up in lights / I wanna be up in lights / Tonight.”
Progressing into “Simple Things,” the pace and instrumentation adds a little extra punch, provoking all sorts of 80s influences of my own to bounce around inside my mind. Musically, I’m inundated with hints of The Psychedelic Furs, while vocally, I’m inexplicably drawn to both Phil Oakey and Marc Almond – which I can only surmise as due in part to Dillon’s natural tendency to deliver his lines with a noticeable British intonation. “Depression takes my soul / But I only want the simple things to glow,” he offers, following some beautifully eerie choral backing vocals (or effects – you decide). “Real Life Magazine” has similar strong tones that place much more emphasis on electrified guitars to start, switching back towards acoustic strums and somewhat muted keys that hover around the deeper, somber side of the spectrum. “Real life magazine / Do you live in the fact or fiction? / Real life magazine / Real life magazine / Do you know their worst intentions? / Real life magazine.”
Go ahead and marvel at the album’s title track that excels in catching the listener off-guard with some discreet key and timing changes. “I’m dreaming of love one more time / I hope you wear your brilliant disguise … / You wait for the day / You wait for the day when there’s nothing left to say / I’m dreaming of, yes, you’re waiting for, love / I’m dreaming of, yes, you’re waiting for, love.” I may be alone with my convictions here, but I’m detecting some strong Queensryche cues, from the melodic guitar tones to Dillon’s drawn-out vocals, that dig deep to pull out a baritone that is as equally eerie as it is compelling. “Dreaming Of Love (One More Time) touches on the darkness that comes with betrayal, but remaining hopeful for the love that one might desire in life,” Dillon explains. The mood here is certainly captivating, this synth-rock number erring more towards the sounds of The Cult than that of The Smiths, and no doubt worthy of many subsequent spins.
For those conscious of a seismic shift toward the progressive rock side of the synth-music genre, you can rejoice when encountering “Ghost Of A Lonely Soul,” where very deliberate keys and guitar rings remain at the forefront – often overpowering Dillon’s slightly muted, reverberated vocals. “If you live in the prison of your mind / If you live in this imaginary time / If you know the truth that lives inside / Feel the darkness brooding like never before / Cuz you’ll almost be / The ghost of a lonely soul / I wish you could feel / True love as a whole.” Such traits can also be discovered in “The Winter Of You,” where the rings of acoustic guitar strings gradually progress to a potent electric guitar workout. “I wonder how it feels / Yes, I wonder what it’s like / To say you see what they see / Under imaginary light / Yes, I wonder how it feels / Yes, I wonder what it’s like / To say you see the beauty / When snow falls in the night / I wish I could feel the feeling / I wish I could know the meaning / This is the wind, the winter of you / Some say that I should not feel blue.”
Closing with “What You’ve Waited For,” there is a deliberate return from the progressive synth-rock elements of the previous few tracks back to the more acoustic side of Dillon’s repertoire. “If I’m coming / I’m coming to take what’s mine / If I’m becoming / Becoming a life of my own desire / Oh, oh / If I’m coming / I’m coming to take what’s rightfully mine / If I’m becoming / Becoming a life of my own desire / Oh, oh / In this life we live to dream / For this life that no-one knows / In this life we live to dream / In this life we get to wish under / Wish under the stars.” The pace is timed perfectly to reduce adrenaline and bring the pulse-rate to normal levels, whilst simultaneously wrapping up this musical journey. “Forever / Forever we push on through the nether / The tether / Look at you know you’re so mystically clever.”
“With a lot of my songwriting, it tends to deal with the struggles and obstacles that come with most basic human emotions: the feeling of love, loss [and] betrayal,” Dillon offers. “While a lot of the lyrics may seem somewhat ominous on the surface, [they] have a hopeful and optimistic undertone.” It is very natural (and easy) to visualize this song as the soundtrack playing over the final movie credits that roll, providing the audible element of closure to a story just witnessed – the final ringing cues and gradual fade gracefully placing the final punctuation mark at the sentence end. “What You’ve Waited For is somewhat of a romantic take on the ebb and flow of ones life,” Dillon adds. “We deal with great highs and great lows but never losing focus on the dreams of what you really want out of your life.” “Coming for what you’ve waited for / I’m coming for what you’ve waited for / I’m coming for what you’ve waited for / I’m coming for what you’ve waited for.”
“Dreaming Of Love (One More Time)” is a solid solo debut from this NB-based artist, who not only demonstrates a passion for the music of his stated influences, but does a mighty fine job in bringing their sounds into his own original work. Back in 2020, I closed my review of Dillon’s single, “So Lovely,” with a statement that he and his band could soon become a household name. Having spent time this week listening to this solo album, Dillon’s creativity is pretty much a notarial seal stamped over those original words. If you ignored my suggestion back then, you’re forgiven – but no more excuses – here is an artist making some outstanding new-wave synth-rock that you can’t afford to miss.
Photo Credit: James McClafferty