Sometimes, you just know. The opening page of a book is so wow that you know it’s going to be a five-star read. The first few minutes of a film are exactly what you love that you know it’s going to take twice as long to watch because you’re going to be pausing to shout a lot. The opening notes of a song are just full of so much that you know you’re about to find a new favorite band.
I am never going to forget the first time I heard a Sleeping at Last song. I was lying on the hardwood floor of the yoga studio that I teach at, settling deeply into my savasana, with one of my favorite teachers ever leading class, and then these slow, sorrowful notes of cello began, and I was lost. Sometimes, in savasana, I feel like my body has been untethered, like I’m floating through space, like there is not a single thing weighting me down to this earth, and then there were those lines.
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.
I remember feeling like I’d unexpectedly collided with the earth, like I really had been meandering through space and had suddenly crashed, full body, into the ground. I have to remember that line, I thought to myself, and I spent the rest of the class repeating it in my head until it echoed through the room again, and it felt like my whole body had been lit on fire.
It was pretty much love at first listen.
Really, the whole song is full of incredible lyrics, and Ryan is one of the most well-spoken musicians I’ve ever listened to. Every one of his songs is just dripping with emotion and beauty and story, and it’s incredible. He puts so much work into every single second of a song, which is apparent even on just a regular listen, but when you pair that with his podcast, where he breaks down the smallest possible details inside his songs, it becomes something else entirely. The fact that he weaves whale songs at the beginning and end of every song in the Oceans EP? The fact that he threads bits of transmission from spacecrafts back to Earth in songs dedicated to those crafts? The fact that he asked people who fit on different numbers in the enneagram scale to record sound clips for those specific enneagram songs? Sometimes, I’m a little speechless listening to his music.
Originally, this week, I’d planned on writing a post about my favorite musicians, but I feel like I’ve kind of already done that with the recent top ten albums. Even though some of those musicians wouldn’t have shown up on a list purely devoted to them as a band and everything they’d done and how that sat in my most played music, I didn’t want to just cycle through the same old things. Thus, I thought it’d be fun to talk about just one of my favorite musicians and how much his music has meant to me over the years.
The Space album is still the one I listen to the most. I recently bought the vinyl of it, not because I have a record player or am specific about how I listen to my music. I’m generally an Apple person–I’ve got an iPhone that I connect to either my Airpods or my HomePod, and, before that, I listened to music on my iPod. (Before that, it was a Walkman and cassettes in the car.) But I’ve always wanted to financially support Ryan, even if only a little, so I thought what better way to do that than to buy the vinyl of probably my favorite album ever. Yeah, I’m pretty comfortable saying that, especially as I listen to it now while writing it, and it’s still giving me goosebumps. The amount of times in a week that I’ll say, Hey Siri, play the Space album by Sleeping at Last, is way more than you could possibly imagine.
I think it’s so unique, too, what Ryan creates music for. Sure, he does quite a few covers, so there’s the kind of music that we’re accustomed to, but everything else? The Space album is my favorite because I love space, and the very idea of creating music based purely on a planet just astounds me, but there’s so much more beyond that. The Oceans EP has five songs dedicated to each of the five oceans, and you can truly feel which songs are which without even looking at the title. Atlantic feels cold and a bit abrasive. Pacific has this warm, bubbling sound. Arctic is distant and soft. The Land EP threads poignant lyrics through each cardinal point. The dirt in which our roots may grow / Though the storms will push and pull / We will call this place our home says the North. With only a paper shield and a wooden sword / No mountain dare stand in my way / Even the oceans tremble in my wake says the East.
There’s Life and Senses and Emotions and Intelligence. Enneagrams and astronomical events, all of them tailored specifically to what they are. Anger is chaotic. Hearing is powerful. Life swells big and bold. There is so much captured in each song, so much careful thought and consideration given to every single note. Even when there are no lyrics, I feel moved beyond description by the beautiful arc of sound, by the way Ryan weaves a story with sometimes nothing more than a piano.
It’s particularly amazing, I think, that Ryan’s music, Sleeping at Last, can offer something for everyone. If you don’t like his voice, that’s okay, there are plenty where he doesn’t sing. If you’re not a fan of slow, piano-driven songs, he’s got full bands and joyful sound. If you want to cry or laugh or feel like you’re floating freely through space, there’s a song for you. My music taste is not even really taste at this point, it’s just straight chaos. The other day, I switched from a dubstep mashup of a screamo song (Battle Drums by Atreyu & Kayzo) to something you’re likely to hear on popular radio and want to dance to (Stop by Anthony Ramos) like it was no big deal. My music taste makes no sense, and even though I can definitively say that I don’t like country and rarely listen to rap, it really doesn’t matter what my taste is when it comes to Sleeping at Last. There’s something for every occasion, every mood.
This is a short post, and I’m really not doing much but pleading with you to give Sleeping at Last a listen because it’s truly the most beautiful music I’ve ever listened to, but it seems fitting, to me, to dedicate an entire post to Ryan’s music. He has so often changed the way I look at things, and I’ve turned to his music during so many different times when I needed a little help, whether that was to boost my mood or settle me into something soft or just create the perfect atmosphere of calm all around.
I’m always going to remember that line, how rare and beautiful it is to even exist, and not even just because I’ve got it tattooed on my arm. Those words, and the first time I heard them, is going to stand out in my memory forever. There is nothing quite as powerful as music that moves you.