Allan Rayman is back with a new album, and he is as enigmatic as ever. The mysterious singer and Toronto resident who is known for his reclusiveness has returned to the public consciousness with Roadhouse 01, a collection of smooth-sounding songs that feature Rayman pondering life and love in his own, cryptic ways.
There’s a narrative through line on Roadhouse 01 that finds Rayman battling with the realities of detaching himself from society and common human connection. The evidence starts with the first song being called “Wolf” and continues with Rayman referring to himself throughout the album as a loner grappling with the desire for connectivity. In “Wolf,” he outlines the conflict between his artistic ambitions and lack of personal fulfillment when he writes, “Above money, above fame, above love, give me truth,” and then following up with, “This is patience wearing thin, when I have it all and no one to share it with/ no one to share it with/ swear to god I’m sick.” The music here reflects the dualistic nature of the lyrics with a combination of classical piano sounds and a more punchy 6/8 R&B groove. Rayman’s duality in music and mind is explored throughout Roadhouse 01.
With “December,” we get a little insight into the inner workings of Rayman, or at least the character he portrays on Roadhouse 01. Set against a more upbeat production, the song acts almost as a back-story to him becoming a lone wolf, with descriptions of a love that eventually soured. He writes, “Love is something he knows nothing of/ don’t speak to him ‘bout love, he gave his all to her.” We begin to see a self-punishing tendency come forth with the idea that his only love to give was spent on someone in the past and he cannot go down that path again. The third-person perspective just reinforces his disconnected disposition.
Roadhouse 01 acts almost like a collection of episodes in the life of Allan Rayman, or at least in the character he cultivates. He takes a pause from discussing love and romance on “Shelby Moves,” which details his feelings about life in the public eye. A darker production with trap influences, the song features Rayman airing grievances over the need to know artists’ personal business, writing in the chorus, “Interview, interview, interview please/ they wanna know about me.” He then goes through some highly specific childhood stories that highlight the absurdity of the need to know about others’ personal lives.
All over the album, Rayman describes the main character as a “wolf out on the road,” and goes to great lengths to emphasize his complicated dealings with romance, evidenced by statements like, “better off alone, she’ll be better off alone.” On the song “Head Over Heels,” however, we find Rayman perhaps experiencing romantic bliss, if even for a moment. He writes, “Got a good one, filling up the reel, baby/ I don’t gotta shoot a whole film, I keep it real, baby/ I’m a bad boy, I’m an outlaw/ I’m a James Dean, she’s a beauty queen,” and then goes on later to sing, “Head over heels, I fall for you/ I know it’s real, I know it’s true.”
The brightness from “Head Over Heels” doesn’t last, though, as Rayman describes the crumbling of a romance on “25.22” and “13.” It all leads to the album closer “God Is a Woman.” The provocatively titled song starts with music that could be taken from the 1980s and finds Rayman perhaps loosening his grip on the lone wolf persona and surrendering to his desire for intimacy, even if it is eternally elusive. In the chorus he writes, “God is a woman, can she hear me now? Is there anybody, anybody out there? Is anybody home? Or am I all alone?” The lines underscore the arch of the album’s narrative, that even if we may feel like the only answer in life is seclusion, our human nature will eventually bring us back to the question “Am I all alone?” His switch to first person here is further evidence of his evolution throughout the album. Rayman puts forth these philosophical questions on Roadhouse 01 with the help of understated productions and slick vocal delivery, and as its last notes expire, we can envision him retreating out of the limelight back into his mysterious, reclusive world.
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