- Eben Ritchie, Bonjour
I recently unearthed a photo of myself from when I was 19. Staring directly into the camera with an inscrutable look on my face, I'm sitting on a couch in my first apartment — a real shithole that I loved dearly. Whenever I see pictures of myself from that era, I try to remember how deeply and purely I felt things back then. It's nearly impossible.
Perhaps that's why I'm so drawn to 19-year-old queer singer-songwriter Eben Ritchie and his debut album, Bonjour. The Champlain College student's eight-song record teems with passion and energy, an iridescent beacon of pop-rock hopefulness at the literal worst moment to be a young adult — especially a college student.
Ritchie, a budding bedroom producer, mentioned in an email that he set out to make music that had an inherent optimism. That's a pretty tall order for someone whose first taste of independence was tainted by a global pandemic. But Ritchie's quarantine fostered a sense of urgency, which manifested in sparkling tunes about sweet moments and big feelings. His songs are ear candy, outfitted with meticulous synth and drum programming, big-swing hooks, and a wise-beyond-his-years lyrical sensibility.
Fans of early Vampire Weekend will likely notice Ritchie's affinity for the band's erstwhile musical magician Rostam Batmanglij, who spread his queerness all over the group's first few records. Ritchie emulates Batmanglij's finely honed equilibrium of organic-sounding instrumentation and computer-aided programming, applying just a sprinkling of production glitter to make his excellently crafted songs snap, crackle and pop. None does this as clearly as "Parc," a rollicking summer jam full of untainted love.
Ritchie's voice clocks in somewhere around baritone, applying a moderately deep, rounded quality to nearly everything he sings. It makes him sound older than he is, as do his patient, empathetic assessments of the world around him. "Don't be scared of time / Because time is all I want to spend here," he sings on "Upwards," a bubbly track with 8-bit video game sensibilities. "All in perspective / We could get up and leave here / Or stay / It's up to you / All for you now," he continues over chipper beats and searing, picked licks.
"City Talk" beams with springy riffs and flights of buzzy synth. Brimming with sunshine, the song's lyrics imply a sense of security and a quiet, unflappable knowingness that can't be struck down.
"French Tokyo" is completely instrumental, a raging slice of electro-pop that conjures fast convertibles blazing along a seaside highway.
In many ways, American life is a different animal than it was when I was 19. But the ardor felt by young adults on the cusp of truly coming into their own is very much the same. Ritchie has a lot to share with the world, and he does it better than most.
Bonjour is available at ebenritchie.bandcamp.com.