Photo: Aijani Payn
boylife is the impossible to define project of Ryan Yoo. It's a project defined by its uncompromising vulnerability, refusing to be constrained by notions of toxic American masculinity or the prejudiced limitations of Asian-American maleness. Instead, his music, which is built on juxtaposition, presents an unflinching portrait of humanity, malleable in form, each infectious twist and turn serving to further define who and what is boylife.
boylife's debut album, gelato, then is an unsurprisingly cathartic experience. Rife with palpable emotion and sonic experimentation, the twelve-track experience feels at times like peering into Yoo's soul. On the succinct "lush 2," boylife moves with an R&B crooner's subtle grace, murmuring life-and-death pleas atop a sublime guitar line. Moments of strikingly beautiful and emotionally intense soul come in spades on gelato, arriving as the equivalent of sonic therapy for both the narrator and listener.
That's not to say gelato is anything close to one-dimensional in form. Tracks like the idyllic "amphetamine" are the equivalent of sonic sunshine, presenting a dreamlike, romanticized version of love. While the rapturous and devastating "superpretty" tackles the reality of race issues in America at a mile-a-minute, backed by a blown-out beat and London punk-evoking delivery.
boylife's debut album is the product of not just baring his heart and soul for the world to see but piecing together the past few years of his life. "gelato is a self portrait. I made it across four years without really planning to make an album. I like that gelato melts and you have to enjoy it while it still holds a shape. I tried to catch the moments at the center of each song the same way, gentle but knowing it’s only here for a little bit,“ shares boylife.
gelato is a moment in time. A mesmerizing kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and emotions that bounce and clash against one another to reveal a Jackson Pollock splatter of the human experience.
Listen to gelato below: