Burning Bitter Years EP

Ryan Schmidt

Untold Media, 2007


REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


Applying to college has served to make me hyper-aware of teenage prodigies: black belts, novelists, full-fledged scientists, all at the age of 18. A self-taught composer at 12 and current regular on the New Hampshire and Massachusetts club circuits, newcomer Ryan Schmidt most definitely belongs on that ever-so-daunting list, however much of a complex that may give me.

Burning Bitter Years, Schmidt’s debut EP, is a promising, five-song slice of downbeat rock, all lovelorn lyrics and smooth delivery à la John Mayer with a raw edge that is all Schmidt's own.

Album opener “Going Dark” is a solid launching point, an unabashedly catchy track with shimmering bursts of guitar and anchoring drums. Despite the cynicism of lines like “There is no happily ever after / Happiness is only found with an eight-dollar movie ticket / And love is only captured with a steel frame and a dying rose / And love is just an endless sea, a sea of dreamers anyway,” the song unfolds with an almost jaunty, resoundingly indomitable spiritedness. My only caveat with this song is a few instances where the lyrics devolve into clichés or general cheesiness (“The lights are on but nobody’s home,” and “I’m sometimes hard to read / Like a book written in Chinese,” for example), a disappointing contrast to the aforementioned moments of vibrant imagery. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Next up, the EP’s title track begins with moody, fuzzed flickers of guitar and brooding vocals: “Burning bitter years / You can do anything, anything at all,” Schmidt croons as the instrumentation slowly builds to its fiery climax. This track is definitely a winner, a fine-tuned, resonant depiction of the raw struggle to succeed. 

“Ten Days” rambles along with a folksy feel to it, the pulsating guitars of the previous two songs swapped for acoustic strumming and piano chords, as the events of, you guessed it, 10 days are recounted. The lyrics grow progressively tenser as the days unfold, until Schmidt is left lamenting, “Two days left and I’m starving, starving from what I can’t decide / Will my hunger fade with the sunset of and the rising tide?” 

“Sleepwalking Days” is more toned down, though still brimming with spurts of guitar jangling and lush harmonies, while final track “Life Is News To Him” is stripped down to Schmidt’s warm, endearing vocals and accompanying acoustic guitar, a quiet, introspective gem that serves well to round the EP out.

Singer-songwriters have it especially tough when it comes to traversing new territory in a genre where everything has seemingly already been said and molded into winning metaphors; nevertheless, Schmidt puts his spin on the tried-and-true busker conventions, and with well-crafted lyrics and solid instrumentation, he has more than made his mark on the music scene.

Rating: B+

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© 2007 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Untold Media, and is used for informational purposes only.