‘Winning Star Champion’ Ruler’s debut album has everything you need in an indie rock record

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OK Sweetheart (left) will open for Ruler (right) at the Aug. 10 show at Alma Mater, at which Ruler will release the new “Winning Star Champion” album. Photo courtesy of artist

Ruler, or Matt Batey, is an indie rocker based in Seattle. His debut album “Winning Star Champion” was released by Barsuk Records last month. He will be performing songs from this new album at Alma Mater, at 1322 Fawcett Ave., on Aug. 10. 

The song “Petrified” starts off the album with a high-energy, thumping pop-rock track; a solid start to a solid album.

The title track, “Winning Star Champion,” is less brash than the previous track, but it maintains a good pace. Ruler’s gentle, indie vocals stand out on this track, and are off-set nicely by short, slick, overdriven guitar bits.

The next track, “Cars and Houses,” starts by showing the way our dreams manifest in the present. The cars and houses you dream of growing up are what you end up “living toward” as an adult. In contrast, Ruler explains how his dreams revolved around roads and different cities. As a result, he believes his ability to have a relationship with someone is “unexpected,” expressing a surprised joy that they are able to remain “connected.” “Cars and Houses” is one of the deepest, most introspective songs on this album.

“Get to You” begins with bleeps and bloops reminiscent of old video games and other miscellaneous electronics. This lo-fi song transports you to another time and place entirely.

“Rule This” has one of the purest indie rock sounds I’ve heard in years. It sounds very similar to the early Death Cab for Cutie albums. It is one of the definitive must-listens on this album.

In “Unhindered Pace,” the guitar-driven piece moves forward, romping about. The use of electric synths mingles well with the distorted guitar riffs. “Unhindered Pace” is easily the most energetic and electrifying track on the album.

While the verses and instrumentation in “The Cure” are excellent, the highly repetitive chorus somewhat detracts from the experience. It is still a good track worth listening to.

“Always Running” is lyrically and instrumentally superior. It is one of the most moving tracks. It has a classic feel, but a modern sound.

“Obvious,” meanwhile, is far heavier on the rock side of indie rock. While it is definitely fast-paced, its lyrics are a touch bland comparatively. This sticks out even more due to its placement between two lyrically brilliant tracks. “Obvious” is not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination. It just doesn’t hold up to many of the other songs on this album.

 “Keep Moving” has an infectious beat, something that is not commonly present in the indie rock genre. The elegant lyrics and guitar work in the song’s favor, making the most of the beat. 

Finally, “We’ve Got It Made” is a brilliant end to the album. Ruler slows down the pace, drawing it to a close. With a few last points of introspection, he ties ‘”Winning Star Champion” in a nice bow.

Overall, “Winning Star Champion” is an album that shouldn’t be ignored. It is oozing personality, and it has songs which speak to people of a myriad of backgrounds. This level of mastery and professionalism on a debut record makes me excited to see how he will grow as an artist.

Be sure to catch Ruler for their album release performance Aug. 10. For more information, visit rulermusic.com.

Also playing at Alma Mater on Aug. 10 is Erin Austin’s band, OK Sweetheart. This band has a new Ryan Hadlock (Cee-Lo Green) and Andy Park (Macklemore, DCfC)-produced record called “Far Away,” which is coming out this fall.

Throughout her career, Erin Austin has rarely stayed still, putting down professional roots in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denton, Texas, all the while working under—and living up to—her artistic moniker, OK Sweetheart. After releasing her first album, “Home,” in 2011, she settled in Seattle, writing, recording and performing with the region’s most formidable talents.

You can check out the title track at youtu.be/rFqxmhjMPHY. For info visit www.oksweetheart.com.

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