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Ryan Adams, ‘Ryan Adams’ – Album Review

Ryan Adams - 'Ryan Adams' - Editors' Pick
Pax Am

It’s been a little less than three years since fans have gotten their hands on a new Ryan Adams record; while this might seem like a normal period of time for some acts, with Adams, it’s felt like an eternity. Up until his latest, self-titled album, Adams released 13 LPs between 2000-2011. Not surprisingly, though, the extra time between ‘Ashes and Fire’ and ‘Ryan Adams’ has proven to be worthwhile.

With 11 tracks packed on the record — each with a unique ability to cut right to the soul — ‘Ryan Adams’ might turn out to be the singer-songwriter’s crowning achievement. The first full-length LP cut at Adams’ studio, Pax Am, the record highlights the best of Adams’ career: his ability to crank up an electric guitar and slow things down on an acoustic, all the while belting out lyrics that instantly ring timeless.

The record opens with the single ‘Gimme Something Good‘ followed by a major highlight of the album, the beautifully slow guitar rocker, ‘Kim.’ With a minimalist approach to the arrangement, the song shines with Adams uttering lyrics like, “With this key / Scratched into the wall / I spell out your name / It’s f—ing with my head, f—ing with my heart.”

The album is fueled with college rock and roll à la R.E.M., but also reminiscent of classic sounds from Bruce Springsteen and the Doors (‘I Just Might’ is a blues-soaked tune with breathy Jim Morrison-esque vocals).

It’s not all tube amps and overdrive, though. ‘Ryan Adams’ also features songs that play like perfect follow-ups to ‘Ashes and Fire,’ including the near-perfect ‘My Wrecking Ball.’ But, even with an acoustic guitar in his hand, Adams doesn’t lose his rock and roll edge — this is most notably heard on ‘Am I Safe,’ a moody song that feels like it could lose all control at any given moment.

While most of the album has a similar mercurial feel to it as ‘Am I Safe’ — the Smiths influence he talked about earlier this year is obvious — there is often a glimmer or more of hope in Adams’ music. Whether he intended it to be or not, the second-to-last track, ‘Tired of Giving Up,’ will likely turn into a fan-favorite, what with its glistening guitars and hauntingly familiar lyrics like, “I’m tired of giving up so easy / Tired of giving up at all / Nobody said it would be easy / Nobody said nothing at all / And I’m tired of giving up.”

‘Ryan Adams’ seems to be a masterpiece of sorts, a culmination of all that is good from Adams’ professional life, a flawless fusion of alt-country and rock and roll. Dare we call it a true representation of the artist Adams has turned into after more than two decades of creating music?

But it doesn’t matter what we say. Take it for a spin and decide for yourself. As Adams said in a recent interview with NME, “The music is eternal … I don’t give a f— what somebody else likes, because I’m busy being passionate and being creative.”

Next: Watch Ryan Adams Cover the Grateful Dead

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