Published Oct 01, 2018Those of us with an aversion to pop music are often quick to associate the genre's production techniques with a lack of musical substance. It's a mistake fuelled by snobbery and a lack of patience. Montreal's Genevieve Ryan Martel, who records under the name RYAN Playground, has a lovely new electro-pop record that illustrates that point.
Tracks like "Prolongation" and "Too Smart" are near Disney-level sweet. Throw in her professional model looks and you've got a compelling package. (Martel is in fact a successful model who has lent her image to Vera Wang, Aldo and others.) She's more than a pretty face, and 16/17 deserves more than a pop music audience.
First, she can play; she's no Nancy Wilson (at least not on this album), but she's clearly been at this for years, despite her young age. Second, she's got style; on 16/17, it's minimalist downtempo. Arguably, that makes the album a tougher sell to a pop audience, but it works. It's a good fit for the material, lending the album a gentle melancholy feel.
Third, this is the album she wanted to make. In addition to her modelling work, she is a respected DJ around Montreal and the downtempo feel on this album comes out of a genuine affection for that music. Martel has a bright future for a bunch of obvious reasons. Musically, her challenge will be to avoid being presented in some form that's not of her choosing. So far at least, she's given us reason for optimism. (Last Gang)