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Entries in Ryan Adams (2)


2014 Year in Review: Taylor Swift, Ryan Adams, Future Islands, and What Wasn't the Album of the Year?


A lot happened in music in 2014.  Right?  What?  Huh?  You know something I learned in 2014 about music?  It's really hard to keep up with music these days.  I pride myself on following music and I didn't even know who Sia was until about three months ago.  Think you did better?  Just look at Stereogum's Top 50 Albums of 2014 or Pitchfork's Top 100 Songs... recognize them?  Recognize half of them?  Then you're doing pretty good in my book.

Even with my limited knowledge, I was able to catch some of the bigger happenings in music this year.

- Taylor Swift continued her steel fisted reign over the American music world, holding record sales hostage until she was damn good and ready to release her album in October.  She dented her legacy slightly when she thought she was worthy of representing New York City (Bodegas are NOT your friend, Taylor).

- War on Drugs had a kind of sort of fued with Sun Kil Moon singer Mark Kozelek, that was really mostly just Kozelek hurling insults while War on Drugs mostly ignored him.  How did it end?  With Kozelek releasing a song called "War on Drugs Suck My Cock" and War on Drugs having on of the best albums of the year, "Lost in a Dream." (Kozelek's own album, "Benji" wasn't bad either).

- Charli XCX and Kitten both finally released LPs this year that didn't quite live up to their previous singles and smaller ventures.

- Run the Jewels (Rap duo and partners in name puns: Killer Mike and El-P) put out two albums but it was the second, "Run the Jewels 2", a nitroglycerin doused, subversive, anthem that launched the group from America's radio into the country's social consciousness.

- U2 gave people a pretty good album for free, and everyone bitched about it.  (Rolling Stone's Album of the Year).

- Weezer made yet another comeback album, but this time it was something worth coming back for.

- Ryan Adams double dipped this year producing one of the best albums of the year in Jenny Lewis' "The Voyager" and releasing one of his own that was even better.

- Mac Demarco is a guy who exists that I guess you should start listening to.

- Against Me! released their first album since their lead singer's highly publicized sex change operation.  The aptly titled, "Gender Dysphoria Blues" landed in many Top 20 Albums lists.

- Future Islands head bobbed their way from Letterman into the mainstream and released what I am going to call the SECOND BEST Album of the Year.


The New Ryan Adams Album is Incredible

I remember the first time I listened to Ryan Adams.  It was Columbus Day weekend at Providence College during my sophomore year.  Most of the student body had retreated to their home towns for the long weekend and I was one of the few warriors to stay on Campus.  It was that friday night that I sat in my dorm room, with monsoon like weather going on outside  finding myself with little to do.  I discovered the Ryan Adams album Rock N Roll on the campus music share site, more specifically two songs from Rock N Roll: "So Alive" and "Anybody Want to Take Me Home".  I had heard Ryan Adams' songs before that moment, but I had never really listened.  Nothing was ever the same.

Years down the line, I'd come to find that Rock N Roll is considered one of Adams' lesser albums, a departure from his wheel house sound of soulful folk/country/rock.  His fan base has grown and waned since then.  But that weekend it was everything.  Sitting here now, with a glass of white wine and Ryan Adams' new self titled album playing through my headphones, the feeling is the same as it was that rainy weekend back in 2005.

Ryan Adams has made his name as a restless troubador.  A man never satisfied in a days work, never willing to settle for one style.  This has shown in the twenty-one different albums and EPs he has released since 2000 as a solo act or fronting a band.  His sound has gone from Country to Folk to Pop to Rock to Punk to Western to all points back again, and it all has its own distinct charm.  All of it has been distinctly Ryan Adams.

When I finally had the chance to experience Adams live, it was at the Newport Folk Festival this summer.  For a folk festival he had his electric guitar plugged in with surprising regularity (there were also a suprising number of Danzig covers).  Listening to his new album it is understandable.  Ryan Adams the album is decidedly a return to rock for Adams, who had spent much of the last ten years turning out folk and country styled jams.  The crisp production is something new for an Adams album, with a lot of the raw emotion coming from the guitars and organs.  The crunching guitars are something Adams hasn't used since 2008's Cardinology and hasn't nurtured hardly at all in his career aside from punk side projects like his stellar 1984 released last month (if you got your hands on a copy, you are one lucky soul).

All of the electricity and howling guitars on Ryan Adams only makes the transition more stark when Adams unplugs for the one stripped down acoustic track on the album, the heart wrenching "My Wrecking Ball" (a song that was unsurprisingly well recieved at the Newport Folk Festival).

The real triumpth of Ryan Adams, is the balance that Adams finds between his soaring guitars and his signature deliberate lyrics.  In the past, on more guitar centric albums like Rock N Roll the impact of the lyrics were sacrificed to serve the sound of the album.  Here the crunching sound compliments Adams' creeping urgency in his vocals.  The sound of Ryan Adams is one of a constant build, giving the listener seldom few pay offs, making those precious hooks in catchy tracks like "Gimmie Something Good" and "Stay With Me" all the more memorable.

With Ryan Adams we don't just get tastes of Adams' musical genius, we get to ruminate in it, let it simmer.  We get the power of Cardinology with the weight of Heartbreaker and the accessability of Gold.

What we have here in Ryan Adams is one of the best albums of the last fifteen years from one of the best artists of the last fifteen years.  As one of the fans that never left, I will be glad to see the name Ryan Adams swell in the world of music once again.