Always count on Matthew Ryan to come in quietly and leave you knocked out on the floor. It’s been three years since we last heard from the alt-country originator, a particularly long gap for a guy who was putting out a new record almost every year consistently through the ‘00s. But with the imminent release of a new record, Hustle Up Starlings, which saw him team up with The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon as a producer and guitar player, along with a tight-knit group of other musicians, for a marathon five-day recording session, Ryan appears ready to dive headfirst once again into the weary, road-worn life he’s lived for so long.
On “Bastard,” the album’s first single, which you can hear exclusively via Paste today, Ryan takes the simple and makes it sublime. The song opens with a muted guitar and the 2-4 snap of a snare drum, like something out of an ‘80s movie, as he sings in his trademark whisper, “Don’t say that you’ll stay / ‘Cause I know that you’ll go.” It’s one of those lines that’s deceptively plainspoken; easy to overlook the first time you hear it but containing remarkable depth, a sentiment that echoes throughout the rest of the song. “Bastard” doesn’t throw any big punches, but each hit leaves a bigger bruise than you’d expect. It’s understated, but in a way that makes you want to listen again right away and pick apart its nuances, and Ryan gives the familiar production a bit of darkness with a smart—and occasionally humorous—comparison of a dissolving relationship and all its debris to the explosive destruction of a car wreck.
Give a listen to “Bastard” below. Hustle Up Starlings is being released independently this Friday, May 12. You can listen to Ryan’s 2008 Daytrotter Session below and click here and here to read two Paste features on Ryan from 2003 and 2012, respectively.