Album Review: Ryan Hamilton – 1221

More often than not these days, the UK gets on board with great new rock n’ roll music before we do here in the states, even when that act is born and bred here in the USA. Texas’ Ryan Hamilton has had his singles playlisted across that country, toured there and here, and has gotten signed to Steven Van Zandt‘s Wicked Cool Records.

With his latest album 1221, it’s time America starts taking firmer notice. This 12 song collection shows off Hamilton’s mastery of garage rock and power pop songwriting. Tracks like most recent single “Do the Damage” grooves enough to get you dancing, but its loud, upbeat guitars still firmly encase it in a gritty rock n’ roll coating. Hamilton has the dynamics down, moving between heavy riffs and melodic choruses on the crunchy “Deja Vu I Love You” and the foot-stomping punkish “Shots Fired”. One of the best of these is “Satellite”, which comes driving out the gate musically and lyrically (“See that body shaking, see that body racing”), but resonates with an emotional chorus (“The boy’s a satellite. He won’t be home tonight”).

Ryan Hamilton

Often music in this genre is more focused on catchy hooks and keep the lyrics simple, but Hamilton gets some extra points for clever, literary writing. He dips into Shakespeare twice; first on “How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me)” (“I’m quite contented to take my chances against the Guildensterns and Rosencrantzes”) and later on the fun sing along “Big Man” (“Romeo had Juliet. I never had a prayer”). He even delves into social commentary on the hippy folk rock number “Babies” (“Little babies in bathrooms getting high”).

Some of Hamilton’s slower moments don’t leave as strong of an impact, with his higher-pitched vocals not carrying the melancholic resonance that would have brought “Caught Up in a Moment” or “Ready to Love Again” to that next level. Though the latter track is aided by the inclusion of tasteful orchestration and a balance of hopefulness in the somber tone.

For any fan of classic rock n’ roll and power pop, Ryan Hamilton is the kind of artist you’ll want blasting from your playlist or jukebox for a rollicking winter. Check out 1221 when it drops on November 26th, and listen to the pre-released tracks below.

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