The artistic evolution of Ryan McPhun — now the Ruby Suns’ sole member — mirrors the recent stylistic progression of indie-pop itself. On his 2005 debut, this Ventura-born, Auckland-honed, but currently Oslo-based multi-instrumentalist fashioned a low-fi approximation of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Then he moved into Afrobeat mode with 2008′s acclaimed Sea Lion, and plugged into synths on 2010′s chillwave-y Fight Softly. Now on his latest Sub Pop offering he beefs up his beats with the mixing help of Beach House producer Chris Coady, who hones McPhun’s largely self-made jams much like Flaming Lips knob-twiddler Dave Fridmann polished fellow one-man-band Tame Impala. Inspired by this wayfaring musician’s new Scandinavian home, Christopher is essentially a psychedelic DIY impression of a Robyn album.
It starts appropriately with “Desert of Pop,” which details McPhun’s autobiographical adventures in discovering the Swedish singer’s chart-topping dance music, drunkenly meeting her backstage, and then seeing her show. Its mixture of elation with sadness — particularly the way the chorus emphases the line “makes me want to cry,” as if tears are the inevitable outcome of all desire — is, of course, so very Robyn, a singer who revels in conflicting yet extreme emotions. Despite his latest infatuation, McPhun hasn’t completely forsaken chiming guitars: They figure prominently on two of Christopher‘s most detailed and reflective songs, “In Real Life” and “Heart Attack.” McPhun’s introspective impression of club pop is otherwise heavy on synths and hand-played drums, but combined with his complicated chords and soft, Arthur Russell-esque croon the nuanced result feels more like a culmination than yet another departure.