Ruler - Winning Star Champion (Barsuk Records)

Add Date: 05/22
Focus Track: 6, 3, & 10
FCC: 2
Formats: College & Modern Rock Specialty

Artist Info: The music on Ruler’s debut album—hook-heavy, assertive, inspiring—is made for motion. It’s a soundtrack for moving forward, for getting better, in terms of both healing and self-improvement. Built on main man Matt Batey’s lifelong fears, anxieties, addictions and failures, not to mention his preternatural gift for creating instantly classic indie rock, these eleven songs follow that old adage by Robert Frost: The best way out is through. And in this case the best way through is with the volume cranked up all the way.

How can an album five years in the making sound so urgent? First and foremost, it’s the music. At 30 years old, Batey is already a seasoned veteran of Seattle’s high-achieving music scene. The Montana native relocated 12 years ago, intent on tapping into the city’s longstanding creative legacy, and immediately joined a band seeking a singer-songwriter-frontman. Buoyed by genuine instrumental chops but hobbled by a streak of bad luck, the band toughed it out gig after gig, EP after EP. In four years Batey wrote more than 120 songs, songs he says nobody heard. This was his rock ‘n’ roll boot camp. Combined with his talent and ambition, it propelled him out of the collective setting and into solo territory, where a meticulous craftsman like him truly belongs. Finally, on his own, he picked a name that felt triumphant, playful—a fist-in-the-air kind of name. Matt Batey would be Ruler, his first great musical project.

No platitudes or love songs here—only raw interior monologue and deep character analysis. For most us, this stuff is hard to confront and even harder to articulate. Batey’s lyrics are pointedly specific—so much so that they’re immediately relatable. And they’re set to soaring tunes that are beautifully, earnestly upbeat. Amid his brilliance and artistry, Batey exposes himself as one of us. That’s his purpose and his gift, spelled out in Winning Star Champion’s bold, beautiful songs: Life hurts, but it's great, and that’s it.