Ricky Vasan broods upon the minutiae of life in Treading Water


Compared to his 2020 EP Weekend Smile, Brooklyn-based singer Ricky Vasan’s new offering conveys a newfound conviction in his craft. Led by quick-to-resonate lyrics and a few unassuming acoustic guitars, Treading Water is deeply pleasant, even in its predictability.

Every track on the album exudes the feeling of solitude. It is easy to imagine Vasan alone in a room, strumming and singing while being watched over by a mountain as a single wind chime tinkles with the breeze. Somewhere between crooner and a cafe-favourite, Vasan’s voice is perfectly lovely but just shy of memorable.

The lyrics themselves stand out a bit more. ‘August’ is a winded ode to meeting an old love, be it beloved, friend or an older memory of himself. He croons, “Look outside,” and you are immediately steeped in the soft gloom of a passing summer. ‘Melancholia’ sounds as it is named, doused in folksy guitars and indulgent introspection. 

The title track is most interesting in its choice of words. Comparing his plight to a stranded ship, Vasan delights the listener with a splash of the Hemingway classic, “I’m the old man off to the sea, with a death wish.” Rife with vibrant symbolism, the track meditates on the feeling of coming apart within oneself. Musically pensive and rich, it is for contemplative nights when you must escape into yourself.

‘For The Time Being’ laments the plight of existing in a world that does not welcome the quiet vulnerability of the artist. It tells a sad story of a life lived mostly behind masks and shadows, drifting from one pretension to another. ‘Swan Song’ unfortunately is rather unremarkable, it’s musicality slipping into unsymmetrical awkwardness.

‘Wither Out’ meanders through similar ideas as ‘Treading Water’. ‘Arms too cold to take you in’ carries a unique gravitas, offering gloomy symbology summoning death, a drained spirit and memories of a failed personal quest. ‘Outro’ is, once again, fairly predictable, wrapping up the album’s musical aesthetic with minimal flourish and a demure farewell.

The album is a testament to Vasan’s personal trials, most of them manifested within a rocky mind. Strung upon melodies as placid as an autumn lake, his lyrics weave memory and symbolism to convey a lifetime of struggle, acceptable and something akin to enlightenment.

However, the songs do not do much to stand out from usual expectations of acoustic singer-songwriter fare. While it is impressive that Vasan keeps his baritone and strings as a constant, halfway through they seem to run out of things to say. The introspective nature of his self-expression can distance the listener by not giving them much to relate to. You come to the album to learn Ricky Vasan’s story, and that’s about it.

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