Speak Low If You Speak Love – ‘Everything But What You Need’

By Tamsyn Wilce

‘Everything But What You Need’ is a new fourteen-track album from singer/song writer Ryan Graham, who performs under the alias Speak Low If You Speak Love. Hailing from Michigan, the 23 year-old is no stranger to touring and song writing, as he’s also the guitarist for Good Luck Varsity. This album however fits snugly between acoustic emo and pop. There’s the possibility that a cup of peppermint tea and a Ryan Gosling movie were in mind during its conception. On that note, if you like Ryan Gosling, chances are you’re going to love Ryan Graham.

The album’s opener ‘Art School (cliché song titles, never a great start to an album), a glossy, well composed introduction sets the tone. The vocal hooks and melodies are reminiscent of ‘Futures’ but lean towards a sad/emo/City And Colour sort of vibe. ‘Knots’ follows, beginning sombrely, before then snowballing into a climatic outro.

Kicking things into gear with ‘Eight Weeks’, this is quite clearly a turnaround in both feel and songwriting skill. On a second listen, the song reveals some dark lyrics around the themes of pregnancy and isolating yourself. The momentum continues, as ‘Naïve’ is a great track. Very short, but something that springs out as the best direction for future endeavours.

The album itself is well performed and the production levels are solid, but it just needs to develop a bit further. It teases you, hinting that more is to come, but it never does. You’re constantly waiting for it to pick you up and slam you back down… but it just sort of churns along.

Sure, there’s a big market out there for acoustic emo/pop/rock. Yet the truth is all the big guns in the field have it down so tight that you need a spin on the genre if you’re going to set yourself apart. You’ve got to be armed with something thought provoking or surprising or exhilarating, not just your standard 4/4 heartache. Unfortunately, in this respect, the album has too many tracks that fall short.

The lyrics are genuine, the melodies are bursting with infectious and poppy harmonies – there’s more oh la la la’s than you can shake a stick at and there’s an impressive collection of additional instruments to give a bit of variation. This is everything you’d expect. But a great album needs something more.


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