William Ryan Key has become a mastermind in creating pop punk scores. The singer/songwriter fronted one of the most beloved bands in Yellowcard. An act which proved we needed those layered songs to sing to, to belt out, to adore and to confide in. Now that Yellowcard is no more, Key has taken his trusted chords and has started to command a solo status.

Key is a talented musician, there’s no doubt, and by utilizing his skills perfectly throughout his new record Virtue, he monumentally moves closer up the ranks, solidifying his place as a star. We also hear a sense of vulnerability in his songs, like a guard has been taken down, letting the darkness flood in.

Virtue is a calm, collected affair. It isn’t blistering or high on adrenaline, but it is a record full bloodied and lyrically imaginative. Key has written these songs to evoke and to let us ponder over them. They’re worthy of this attention, he is worthy of an admirable reception, and his work is never tired or repetitive. Freshly cut songs are always welcome, especially in such a bloated, often samey, industry.

The words aren’t stretched out over the course of Virtue. They’re meticulously placed and are needed to create a story — an image which doesn’t always appear beautifully immaculate. Key does have demons, he does feel low, he knows the constraints of a broken mind — and Virtue is a gratifying listen.

“The Bowery” showcases Key’s wonderful wordplay decisively; it’s a song hitting great strides, and the back beat is subtle, but those words are far from being kind. Key desires closure here, he wants to feel hope burrowing deep, but he just can’t win. “Downtown” is an acoustic gem, offering the listener a great harmonic balance. He is losing a lover — she’s walking away, leaving him cold and broken. The lyrics are compelling and they give us an insight into an incredible talent. “No More, No Less” is a gripping swan-song, as Key wants to belong in this world, and the rush of flair is powerful.

William Ryan Key has offered us these songs and they’re composed well. They’re as good as any Yellowcard number.

Virtue will be released this Friday, November 30th. You still have time to pre-order the release from Key here.