The Great Collision is Ryan David Green, best known as half of Tucson folk-pop duo Ryanhood. With his latest project, he fleshes out his straightforward melodies and introspective lyrics with arrangements bordering on the baroque, with layers of keyboards, vocals, and orchestral flourishes.
Running in Circles is trad-rock in the vein of John Mayer and Eric Clapton's albums from the 1980s. Mayer, with whom Green shares the distinction of being a Berklee College of Music graduate, especially looms large in The Great Collision's aesthetic.
"Love Is on the Way," for example, might have grown from the same cob of Mayer's corn, but the difference between the two is fundamental — Green is celebrating the impending delivery of said love without it turning into a frat house mood-setter.
The main problem of Running in Circles is the bombastic production and instrumental virtuosity that nearly smothers Green's plaintive songs with syrupy strings and pseudo-bluesy organs. Arena-sized sonics don't strengthen already-questionable lyrics like the repeated refrain of "Fine" ("I will be fine"); these are tunes that are pretty for the coffeehouse, but lose appeal when amped up for a stadium.
The atmospherics and writing come together most successfully on "Your Love Set Me Free." The earnest words, the instrumental prowess, and the film-score dynamics make for a pulse-raising, if still somewhat easy-listening, meditation on the power of love, in a way Huey Lewis will never know about.
It would serve The Great Collision to strip it down, because the songs are what count.