Embracing the beauty of orchestral pop, we celebrate this English songwriter’s most ambitious album to date.

Five years is the time that separates this luminous Iechyd Da from the misty Yawn, released in 2018. In between, Bill Ryder-Jones has swallowed two break-ups, three Valium and half a bottle of vodka a day. This is nothing new: the Englishman has been suffering from anxiety for many years. These anxieties prompted him to abandon his band The Coral in 2008, at the height of their fame, and then retreat to working alone with If, three years later. This was then followed by A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, West Kirby Primary County, and lastly, the shoegaze and electric Yawn in 2018 followed by Yawny Yawn, his piano version—a collection of almost chamber-like folk odes that revealed his broken voice and the throes of intimacy.

At the age of 40 and on his fifth album, Bill Ryder-Jones still writes of his woes but draws inspiration from hope to sweeten yesterday’s melancholy. With its symbolic baptismal name, Iechyd Da, which means ‘good health’ in Welsh, poetically navigates between sentimental tears and space-time knots. In text or music, thwarted love is omnipresent. I Know That It’s Like This (Baby) samples Gal Costa’s Baby, which Ryder-Jones used to listen to with his ex. A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart Pt.3 builds a bridge to the past by offering a sequel to the two previous volumes, while the future becomes conditional in If Tomorrow Starts Without Me. The village children’s choir alone on It’s Today Again, We Don’t Need Them, illustrates the traumatic childhood to which the songwriter is deeply attached. They radiate innocence and fragility amidst the powerful soaring strings.

Taking the opposite approach to the electric reverbs of Yawn, Bill Ryder-Jones opts for an organic, sometimes 60′s orchestral pop to indulge his obsession with melody. The rhythms speed up and fade away, the orchestration amplifies then tapers off, sounding as close as possible to the twists and turns of the heart and mind. Oscillating between calm and storm, the album ends gracefully on the notes of the instrumental Nos Da (‘good night’ in Welsh). These sonic landscapes owe their intensity to the boldness of Ryder-Jones, who is more confident after producing others - Saint-Saviour, Brooke Bentham and Michael Head, who reads James Joyce’s Ulysses in the middle of the record (...And the Sea...). James Ellis Ford’s mixing and the mysteries of the location also played a part in the conception of this album. Iechyd Da was recorded in Ryder-Jones’ own Yawn studios in West Kirby, a faded little town on the Wirral peninsula between Liverpool and Wales, facing the grey of the sea, where he grew up and now lives after the impossible longing for elsewhere.