Pop art

Joey Ryan (center) and his bandmates are appropriately all smiles.

Joey Ryan (center) and his bandmates are appropriately all smiles.

photo courtesy: Joey Ryan and the Inks

Joey Ryan (center) and his bandmates are appropriately all smiles.

by Andrew Penkalski

What: Joey Ryan and the Inks (Album release show)

When: Saturday, July 30, 9 p.m.

Where: Triple Rock Social Club (629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis)

Cost: $8

This past May, the men of Minneapolis pop-rock quintet Joey Ryan and the Inks licensed a song for MTVâÄôs hipster faux reality series, âÄúMy Life As Liz.âÄù It was a rusty track by the name of âÄúOh, Caroline,âÄù and on the most superficial level, it seems that the group is the ideal accoutrement to scripted indie romance.

Between RyanâÄôs soft, pliable voice and the groupâÄôs Tin Pan Alley charm, Joey Ryan and the Inks is one of more offenseless pop acts to come out of the Twin Cities. But as the lush details of their new sophomore effort, âÄúDennis Lane,âÄù show a great pop song need not ruffle feathers.

While most local acts treat their relentless release patterns as a means of continually stirring and prodding their fan base, Joey Ryan and the Inks took a comparably lengthy 18 months between their debut record, the rootsier âÄúWell, Here We Are ThenâÄù and this monthâÄôs follow-up. With RyanâÄôs basement studio at the groupâÄôs disposal, it allowed the recording process, which started around July 4 of last year, to be a bit less calculated.

âÄúWe donâÄôt have the pressure of paying for a week of studio time and having to go in then to lay everything down,âÄù guitarist Chris Mitchell said. âÄúThere were days where we would get together and try put stuff down, and it wasnâÄôt too stressful if we came up with very little.âÄù

While Ryan maintains the position of chief songwriter, there was an admitted level of shared creative wealth going into the second record.

âÄúI was playing some solo shows with a collection of songs, but I basically got tired of playing by myself,âÄù Ryan said of his pre-backing band days. âÄúAs weâÄôve progressed it has become more of a group collaboration.âÄù

It is a ballooning of the groupâÄôs creative voice that is apparent on âÄúDennis LaneâÄù in several ways. Simply put, you can hear Ryan writing with a greater consciousness of his band. Even with its diverse instrumental palette, âÄúWell, Here We Are ThenâÄù treated its horns and trebly guitar plucking as toys more than tools. Everything is done a bit more purposefully on âÄúDennis Lane.âÄù The piano-fueled âÄúTroubled Poet,âÄù pits buzzing two-part guitar harmonies against the songâÄôs gentle keyboard crux. RyanâÄôs fascination with dense choral hooks only accentuates this greater collaborative identity on âÄúDennis Lane.âÄù Never mind that its just layers of Ryan.

âÄúVocal harmonies are kind of a big part of what I enjoy about music,âÄù he said. âÄúSome of those were just flukes from a five-hour block of me just sitting in my basement with a bottle of wine and thatâÄôs what ended up happening.âÄù

Even with the recordâÄôs sunny disposition and its aesthetically homegrown mixture, there are surprising moments of lyrical somberness. In the same way Brian Wilson weaved bliss with heartbreak in âÄúGod Only Knows,âÄú Ryan has a knack for complementing his melancholy best with melody. ThereâÄôs the saddening optimism of âÄúCircles in the SandâÄù as Ryan sings against rambling guitars, âÄúThere goes Johnny swimming in a box/no windows to see out/no idea when to stop.âÄù ItâÄôs a dichotomous songwriting style the band enjoys exploring.

âÄúIf you were to just listen to the music, itâÄôs an upbeat-sounding song, but the lyrics have that darker edge to them,âÄù Mitchell said. âÄúI think thatâÄôs reflected in how the rest of us write our art. I think there are some guitar parts in that song that reflect the dual nature.âÄù

After SaturdayâÄôs album release show at the Triple Rock Social Rock, Joey Ryan and the Inks will spend the rest of the year expanding their national market with a handful of out-of-state dates. TheyâÄôre also on the bill for Soundtown Festival, the Twin CitiesâÄô musical invasion across the Wisconsin state line to the small town of Somerset.

The late summer may be just the time for âÄúDennis Lane.âÄù Ryan admits that much of the albumâÄôs material explores a man âÄúspending too much time on things he doesnâÄôt enjoy.âÄù A dwindling summertime may help their style resonate a bit more clearly, but it still comes in pretty loud now.