Written by Maria Arroyo
Detroit-based indie musician, Ian Ruhala, a.k.a. Hala, releases his new record, Red Herring, out today. The album is a culmination of songs that pulls from many different influences in his life. “For me, this record represents the moments in life where there is a sense of confusion to whether we’re living in a comedy or a tragedy,“ says Hala. “Sometimes these feelings intermingle with each other.”
Aside from the string arrangements on the album, which were played by contributor Josh Neumann, Hala wrote and performed every other instrumental piece for Red Herring. This includes everything from the vocals and guitar, to the bass, drums, and even vibraphone and xylophone.
The album starts with the catchy R&B track, “Turn Out Right,” which is paired nicely with an infectious instrumental layout. The next couple of songs “Making Me Nervous” and “Somehow” carry that same high-impact energy and are just as catchy. “Camera” changes up the feel of the entire album with this psychedelic and groovy feel. There’s a lot to be said for an artist who has the pull to get me to physically stand up out of my chair and jam to their music.
“Why Do You Want Anything To Do With Me?” keeps the party alive with a lyrically catchy song. After the first listen, I memorized half of the song. His ability to have so many songs on an album that can get stuck in your head is absolutely unbelievable. The songs are structurally great but have this effortless feel to them for the average listener to enjoy it just as much. “Emotional R&B” has the same effect, but washes over the listener with a feeling of calmness and serenity.
“Nobody-Body Knows” showcases more of the influences from a funky and upbeat perspective. The track really rounded out the overall sound of the album.
Another great single is the title track, “Red Herring,” with a solid song structure and an even better feel. While the melodic line stays around the same grouping of notes, he still manages to keep things interesting with the leading tones, which keeps the song from becoming stagnant. When there’s not a lot of movement in the vocals, the instrumentation makes up for it, and vice versa. The bridge is mind-blowingly executed and really diversifies the structure of its song.
Closing the album is the softest piece “True Colors.” The song is acoustic with no crazy electro or psychedelic feel to it. It’s an interesting choice for a closer because it’s so different from the other songs on the album. With that in mind, the one thing that ties all of them together is the unique tone in his voice and the style that encompasses the album. This song is tethering a line of not suiting the overall feel of the album and giving the album the exact kind of diversity it needed.
Red Herring is depicted as a “coming-of-age record from an artist recognizing that cohesiveness need not only be expressed in structural sameness.” Hala makes this album pleasant and enjoyable to listen to. There’s nothing that stuck out to me negatively, but at times the songs did start to blend together, but his style is overly-interesting and the execution of the album is stunning!
“The bass player in me wants to be equal parts funk and jazz, but is also inspired by Richard Hell,” he explains. “The guitar player in me wants to be like Stray Cats’ Brian Setzer, and like The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr., and Nick Valensi. There’s something to take away from any playing style.”
The ability to merge all of these musical influences into one smooth-flowing creation is commendable. Be sure to keep up with Hala on all social media platforms.
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