Review: Death of brother shapes Daniel Rylander’s ‘Strawberry Skyline’

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Singer/songwriter Daniel Rylander was inspired to record his debut album "Strawberry Skyline" after his brother Army 2nd Lt. David Rylander was killed while serving in Afghanistan.

Musicians are inspired to create by many things — be it teenage angst, heartbreak, righteous indignation, the natural beauty of creation or good old-fashioned ambition.

Akron singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Daniel Rylander’s inspiration for writing and recording his debut full-length album, Strawberry Skyline, was born from loss. Rylander’s brother, Army 2nd Lt. David E. Rylander, 23, was killed by an improvised explosive device in May 2012 while serving in Afghanistan.

Rylander co-wrote a song with his uncle Tom Seibert, A Friend & Brother (Be Thou at Peace), that he performed at his brother’s funeral. The loss of his brother and the positive effect his song had on his fellow mourners inspired the 20-year-old to record Strawberry Skyline. Rylander enlisted co-producer/mixer/engineer Wes McCraw at the latter’s Creekside Audio in Norton to give the album a clean, unfussy sound and breathing room to the tunes’ base instrumentation of guitar, bass drums and piano.

Rylander, a drummer by trade who taught himself piano, guitar and a few other instruments, packs the album’s 13 tracks with his high emotionally charged tenor to keening melodies that recall other singer/songwriters such as Ben Folds and ’90s emo-kings Dashboard Confessional.

Love seems to be the overriding theme of the 63-minute work, be it abusive, forlorn, lost, brand new or all consuming. Rylander’s got a lot to say about relationships both interpersonal and familial.

The Plot to Block the Sun is a punky piano and guitar driven toe-tapper and potential single that leads deftly into Hoping You Wouldn’t Let Go So Soon — a lament of bad love lost with a pleasant folksy jangle that belies the desperation in the lyrics: “Now I see, how you got the best of me, I'll never love again,” Rylander wails.

On the near eight-minute Paper Veins, Rylander beseeches an apparently ambivalent lover, “I've been lonely before but never quite as much as when I think of you, wherever you are, think of me, too.”

A Friend & Brother (Be Thou at Peace), featuring backing vocals by co-writer Seibert and singer Allison Good, is available as a single on iTunes. It is the emotional centerpiece of Strawberry Skyline. Rylander pours his heart out with no lyrical subterfuge, just the kind of plainspoken emotion that elevates a song about a specific loss into a universal lament that applies to anyone who has lost someone close to them.

“We ask ourselves why in the prime of your life the end came so quickly to leave us denied of the comfort and closure that hangs on the tongue of goodbye.”

On The Dichotomy of a Church-Go’er, Rylander sings plaintively of a former lover in an abusive relationship accompanied only by a gently pulsing piano. But Rylander hasn’t just been burned by love. He sings hopefully of beginning a new love and life over a country shuffle on Just You & Me.

Rylander is yet another Northeast Ohio talent trying to carve out his own space and sound in an area rich with talented folks. Some of his heart-on-his-sleeve love lamentations may seem a bit “young” to some older, more experienced listeners who have “been there, done that, divorced that, started over” a few times. But Rylander’s musical talent, his way with a sing-songy melody and the cool instrumental touches that beef up his arrangements should garner him some attention and fans.

Strawberry Skyline is available at iTunes, and

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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