Ryan McMurtry - Thoughts Like Birds (EP Review)

From Belfast via Bristol, the whispery folk balladeering of Ryan McMurtry makes a light-hearted but lasting impression on his joyous new EP "Thoughts Like Birds". Strings, brass, and backing vocals help to accentuate the true spirit of McMurtry's dryly performed songs. Sacrificing energy for clarity, the pieces are delivered in a meticulously soft, sometimes deadpan, and always economic mix. Never asking too much from the listener, the songs' uncomplicated nature gives the EP an effortless sense of finding joy in the quotidian. 

The brief, three-song-EP starts with "Nightingale", a fetching finger-picked acoustic number about a bird, and you can never go wrong with bird-inspired folk. It's an innocuous song, but well-chosen instrumentation adds layers of temperments, rendering McMurtry's quiet intentions larger in scope. Likewise, the Beatlesque "Heart to Heart" includes minimal percussion, vocal harmonies, and sweeping strings to create a tempting tune about the precious nature of romance. Finally, "Ride The Wind" alludes to nature with precision in the vein of Fionn Regan before landing on instrumental passages that echo Cian Nugent's application of European playing styles to the originally rough-and-tumble nature of American primitive guitar music. This track paints McMurtry as a romantically optimistic vagabond musician travelling the rail lines of the Atlantic Archipelago with an open heart, hoping to find ears for his songs and love for his soul.

Thoughts Like Birds is a straightforward and pleasant folk EP. However, such an observation shouldn't imply it lacks import. On the contrary, McMurtry's easily-accessible and uplifting music feels integral in a world where simplicity is progressively scarce. It's as if the songs' modus operandi is to remind you that you're a warm-blooded animal living in a digital world. Nostalgic but with a modern edge, this is a consistently professional EP from a songwriter who can spin a mood and leave you feeling light enough to soar.