Matthew Ryan | Muses From Up High


From a Late Night High Rise deals with everything that the winter months force down our throats: mortality, loss, anger, regret, and hope.




The first time I heard Matthew Ryan’s From a Late Night High Rise, I was scared. I was driving the back roads of Godfrey, Ill., fully aware that for every MPH that I pushed my PT Cruiser, a patch of ice could surprise and immediately introduce myself to a friendly ditch near a lonely field where nature sleeps. I had an advance copy of Ryan’s new album, an unexpected delivery in the mail which I had checked before my trek back home to St. Charles. The thought didn’t pass through my freezing brain that music wouldn’t get any better in 2007.

But I guess that’s when wonderfully real music is supposed to hit you: when your mind is obsessing over your latest potential problem, like running out of gas when you’re chancing freezing rain in the middle of nowhere. From a Late Night High Rise deals with everything that the winter months force down our throats: mortality, loss, anger, regret, and hope. Ryan’s voice is as scratchy as ever on the opening "Follow the Leader," and as thundering as his guitar on "Misundercould," and "Love Is the Silencer." While I listened to the disc for the first time, I wondered what he must have gone through while writing the songs that formed what would be my favorite album of 2007. 11 months later, I decided to ask him. Here’s Matthew Ryan’s take on the songs of From a Late Night High Rise, one by one:

prof_matthew-ryan2.jpg"Follow the Leader"

Love and politics. Corruption and redemption. Intimacy can turn into Kubrick. Not the dark parts, but the honest pasts. I wanted to find the beauty in that. The last words in No Country for Old Men reminds me of what I wanted to say with this song. I guess it’s simple, love is complex.

"And Never Look Back"

Sometimes all you can do is laugh at your clumsiness or bad luck just before you toss it out the window at 90 miles as hour. There’s something romantic, maybe heroic about persistence.


Politics and Love. I was hoping to create a new brotherhood here. Songs are sometimes mission statements. It’s naive maybe sometimes. But I wanted to find others that might consider rejecting some the more oppressive arms of technology and marketing. I worry what our blooming anonymity will bring or invite.

"Gone for Good"

Steve Earle told a friend of mine that this is a great song after he heard it. It’s hearsay because then my friend told me. I’ll take it! A song that mentions The Lone Ranger, Tonto and Igloos must be pretty good.


This is a great song written by Stephen Kilby and the late Grant McLennan. I did the best I could to honor it. Absolutely beautiful. Just one of those times when you just have to sing someone else’s song because it feels like your own.


An anthem about underachieving. This is one of my favorite songs to play live. It’s got a pretty cool bridge in it, one of the first I’d written.

"Everybody Always Leaves"

Much of this record is about some very personal losses. This song is the centerpiece. A poem to ghosts, so to speak. But not just those you lose, but that part of you that changes after you’ve been confronted by that profound impermanence.

"All Lit Up"

A song about coming back to life after being shook.

"Love Is the Silencer"

The best poem I’ve written put to music. I get tired of academics not accepting rock ‘n’ roll lyrics as poetry. But that’s neither here nor there. This was recorded at home, so it has spontaneity to it. I love playing this song live. It really explodes with an interesting politics, love and sex about it.

"Victory Waltz"

Another home recording. Maybe this one is my best poem. It’s about the oppressive nature of loss. It changes you. It intensifies how you view virtually everything with a sense of dread… For a while, because amazingly, it offers you this redemption of experiencing every moment with more breath and air once you gather yourself back in.

"June Returns for July"

A piece of music that I thought was beautiful. It’s "Victory Waltz" in reverse. And I thought that meant something, emotionally speaking, because of what this record is about.

"The Complete Family"

This was a risky move for me. Spoken-word pieces tend to be judged as pretentious or melodramatic; but I couldn’t imagine these words any other way. Again, it was recorded at home. I’m pretty sure that kept me pretty open and relaxed enough to do it. It tells a very specific story. Anyone who’s ever experienced what this song is about will surely understand. Those that haven’t, well, you’re lucky. | Jason Gonulsen

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