I have a hard time keeping up with Ryan Adams’s musical output because it seems like he puts something out every year. However, this summer he released the single “Gimme Something Good” which really got my attention. I hoped the rest of the album would have the same attitude.
Musically, Adams’s voice and ambient chorus-driven guitars give the album a distinct personality. Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also provides some signature keyboard work. Lyrically, it’s a somber and desperate sounding album, as are most of his albums. The song titles pretty much give that away. However, the mood turns from depressing (“Shadows”) to determined (“Tired of Giving Up”) by the end of the album. (Don’t worry; I didn’t just look at the titles. I listened to the lyrics, too.)
Ryan Adams opens with “Gimme Something Good,” which really reminds me of early Tom Petty, and the presence of Benmont Tench is more than a little bit responsible for that. It’s a strong track that stays in your head for a while, and it’s probably the only song on here that could survive on its own as a single. “Kim” is a very well written song, but it’s kind of a tease because I was expecting it to keep building to a rhythmic climax. However, that moment never came and the song peaks about half way through. This seems to be the case with a handful of these tracks.
“Trouble” sounds like another homage to Tom Petty (i.e. “Refugee”) and is driven by the remarkably strong rhythm section of Tal Wilkenfeld (bass) and Jeremy Stacey (drums). One song that is quintessential Adams is “My Wrecking Ball.” I can think of two other songs from the last two years with “wrecking ball” in the title, and “My Wrecking Ball” blows them away. In my opinion, this is the best song on the record and it really holds up with the best he’s ever done. “Shadows” is another one of the more memorable and haunting songs of the bunch, as well.
The songs on Ryan Adams all have good moments, some of them just don’t really develop as much as I would like. The songs are very well written, just maybe not arranged or produced as they deserve to be. As a result, some of the songs are a bit boring at times. Adams says he wanted to try to produce one of his records by himself for a change. Maybe some additional input would have made it a bit more exciting. He gets a lot of criticism for releasing what seems like everything he records. However, he took his time a bit more on this one. Maybe if he took just a little bit more time he could make another great album like Love is Hell (2004). Nonetheless, I have a feeling this one might grow on me.
Key tracks: “Gimme Something Good,” “My Wrecking Ball,” “Trouble”
RIYL: Whiskeytown, Tom Petty