Ryan McKinley has always looked at the world a little differently than those around him. From his time in Toronto punkers Pkew Pkew Pkew to his current dream-pop endeavors under the Moral Pleasures moniker, his songs examine themes of love, sorrow, and identity through a gauzy lens, less literal and more expressive in their perspectives. That doesn’t mean he’s ever at a loss for finding exciting ways of demolishing expectations and breaking down conventional avenues of emotional introspection – his work is littered with riffs designed to shake your bones as well as quieter moments aching with honest sentiment.
McKinley has called Alberta home since 2018, and he began the work of recording the songs which would form the basis of his sophomore EP Sleepy Songs for Dying Loves last year. His debut EP Persepolis was released in December of 2020, and it showed him travelling some very different musical corridors. Rather than the frenetic licks he presented with Pkew Pkew Pkew, this new creative outlet has allowed him to find alternative throughways in discovering the heart and muscle of his music. Sleepy Songs for Dying Loves is due out June 11.
With new single “Goth”, he taps into a vein of dense dream pop with a stratum formed through layered vocals, waves of subtle distortion, and some unexpected harmonica thrown in for good measure. It quickly wraps itself around your senses, blotting out all unnecessary noise – at least it does for a little under three minutes. It bears the markings of progenitors like Cocteau Twins and Lush (and that harmonica is absolutely Dylanesque) but with its own thoughtful personality, occasionally folksy and prone to revelations found within gorgeous soundscapes. The track is pure ear candy, enticing in its melodic accessibility and emotionally vivid in its evocation of youth and discovery.
“’Goth’ is about looking back on youth, with simultaneous nostalgia and regret,” explains McKinley. “Nostalgia for the feeling of being free from self-awareness and regret for the chaos that results.”
Listen to “Goth” below.