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10 Most Underrated Ryan Adams Songs

Ryan Adams
Bruno Vincent, Getty Images

In nearly two decades, Ryan Adams has released 17 full-length studio albums — either with Whiskeytown, the Cardinals or as a solo artist. Within the grooves of those 17 records, the singer-songwriter created some of the most beautifully plaintive songs of his time. It’s hard to find someone who isn’t moved (in one way or another) by a track like ‘Come Pick Me Up’ or ‘When the Stars Go Blue.’

Besides the countless hits that Adams produced, there are a number of songs that have flown under the radar as well. Maybe it’s simply because they appear later on the album or they’re overshadowed by a massively popular song like ‘New York, New York.’ Regardless of the reason, to help celebrate the release of his latest, self-titled effort, we went through his catalog to find some of those gems that have stuck with us over the years. We’re excited to present to you the 10 Most Underrated Ryan Adams Songs:


‘Aching For More’

‘Gimme Something Good’ B-Side (2014)

 

 

When ‘Gimme Something Good’ was released earlier this year as the first of an ongoing 7-inch series from Adams’ Pax Am label, it received deserved rave reviews. However, what was shocking was the utter lack of acknowledgment the B-side garnered. ‘Aching For More’ is a flawless track that could easily stand on its own as a single; yet, you’ll only find it on the ‘Gimme Something Good’ 7-inch.

 

‘Lovely and Blue’

‘III/IV’ (2010)

 

 

Adams and the Cardinals recorded ‘III/IV’ in 2006, but it didn’t see the light of day for a few years because his label at the time, Lost Highway, wasn’t into it. So, in 2010, Pax Am unleashed the double-album to fans. Chock full of electric guitars, the entire LP deserves a second listening as it features somewhat more elaborate arrangements than ‘Easy Tiger'; ‘Lovely and Blue’ is one of the quintessential tracks from the 21-song record.

 

‘Imminent Galactic War’

‘Orion’ (2010)

 

 

In 2010, Adams recorded and released a heavy metal science fiction concept album called ‘Orion.’ It’s a record that is as rare as it is a departure from the singer-songwriter material of Adams’ entire career. The second track on the opus is a nod to the great thrash metal tracks of the eighties; when Adams screams “Imminent war!” it’s hard to believe it’s the same guy who sang “Dancin’ where the stars go blue / Dancin’ where the evening fell” — and not Slayer‘s Tom Araya.

 

‘These Girls’

‘Easy Tiger’ (2007)

 

 

‘Easy Tiger’ is a fantastically accessible album — it’s arguably Adams at his best (at the time). While it’s easy to listen to ‘Goodnight Rose,’ ‘Two’ and ‘Halloweenhead’ on repeat, it’s important to explore the entire record. When you do, you’ll find the next-to-last track, ‘These Girls,’ is reminiscent of why you fell in love with Adams in the first place, way back in the Whiskeytown days.

 

‘Starlite Diner’

’29’ (2005)

 

 

Featuring Adams solo on piano, ‘Starlite Diner’ is one of the most beautifully tragic songs written by the singer-songwriter. It’s haunting in its honesty, and Adams’ flickering vocals and lyrics only elevate it to a more poignant level: “And I’m standing in the corner / Wishing you were here in my arms / Fare thee well my old friends / Fare thee well.”

 

‘Political Scientist’

‘Love Is Hell’ (2004)

 

 

Likely the most well-known track on this list, ‘Political Scientist’ opens the 2004 album (which was initially released as two EPs), ‘Love Is Hell.’ Whether it’s really about the White Stripes (“Banging hard upon a crooked drum … Salvation Army houses back in Michigan“) or a corrupt society, one thing is for certain: the song contains complex and piercing musical arrangements built upon powerfully dark — if not confusing — lyrics.

 

‘Do Miss America’

‘Rock N Roll’ (2003)

 

 

‘Rock N Roll,’ as its name might imply, is a flat-out rocker with the amps cranked to 11. It sounds as though it could’ve been recorded in the ’90s during the explosion of alt-rock. Which makes sense, considering it was recorded in James Iha’s studio and featured appearances by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur. ‘Do Miss America’ harkens memories of Mudhoney, and we’re OK with that.

 

‘Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues’

‘Gold’ (2001)

 

 

If ‘Do Miss America’ evokes memories of the ’90s, ‘Tina Toledo’s Street Walkin’ Blues’ takes listeners to the ’70s and early ’80s, the same years that yielded albums like the Rolling Stones‘ ‘Sticky Fingers’ and ‘Tattoo You.’ The track is straight-up rock and roll and showcases Adams’ ability to let it all loose; the only sad thing is it’s just six minutes long. We get the feeling the recording session for this tune could’ve lasted far longer.

 

‘Shakedown On 9th Street’

‘Heartbreaker’ (2000)

 

 

If Bob Dylan decides to re-record ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ on an electric guitar (hey, we can hope) it will sound something like ‘Shakedown On 9th Street.’ While telling the story about how he’s going to stand up for Lucy — “I was just gonna hit him but I’m gonna kill him now” — Adams creates one of the catchiest tunes of his career on his debut solo LP. If this doesn’t make you want to dance, well, you must like dancin’.

 

‘Black Arrow, Bleeding Heart’

‘Faithless Street’ (1998)

 

 

In 1995, alt-country pioneers Whiskeytown released their debut album, ‘Faithless Street.’ As the frontman of Whiskeytown, Adams proved that even 20 years ago, he was just as powerful of a songwriter as he is today. ‘Black Arrow, Bleeding Heart’ includes hints of Uncle Tupelo, but highlights Adams’ unique lyrical prowess.

 

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