Monday, February 18, 2008

I Like Ryan Adams

No, seriously, I do.

He's probably my favorite modern songwriter going whose name isn't "Hurley" (note to Minneapolitans: blatant ass-kissing, but true), and yet there are legions of hipsters who think they're, like, too hip for him. And I can't fathom why. There's nothing inherently unhip about his music, nor is it particularly, quote, "trying to be hip" (side note: does any artist ever try to be hip? Don't you just, like, make art, and its either with the zeitgeist or agin' it?). Its just great songwriting, full stop -- and yeah, the guy's prolific, but besides Prince I've never seen an artist so prolific and yet so consistent.

And yet how often do I get shit for liking the guy? A: all the time, from people I'd never think would care, or worse, who should like him but for some unfathomable reason, don't.

At least a few of them are mad at him for trying to sleep with their girlfriends. Fair enough.

My favorite album of his, too, is everybody else's least favorite, though again, I'm powerless to understand why. I guess its okay to like his first album because its really earnest and country and rootsy, and that's okay. And it's okay to like half of "Gold," because of 9/11, right? But my favorite is Love Is Hell which is, to these ears, one of the most beautifully sad albums anybody's ever done. It's the album people claim is a deliberate attempt to "be hip," though to me, it sounds like the guy's profoundly depressed and is exorcising some nasty demons via songwriting, right? I guess that's hip? Or trying to be hip? I dunno, I'm so out of touch with hip and not hip out here in LA, you tell me.

See: Its just such an echoey, dark, tragic album, and yet so beautiful in so many ways. It doesn't rock, except when it does (see: the title track and the tear-jerking Beetlejuice tribute (seriously) "This House Is Not For Sale"). Its mostly piano driven, which works so well on whispered, atmospheric tracks like "Political Scientist" and "The Shadowlands." Marianne Faithfull crops up on "English Girls Approximately," which is always a good sign, no matter what. And the backup band has Ian Maclagan from the Small Faces and Ricki Fataar from either the Rutles or Flame or the Beach Boys, mostly playing the wrong instruments, which is just so cool. And right smack dab in the middle it reimagines "Wonderwall" by Oasis as the saddest country song ever written, which, c'mon, no matter how you slice it, that's amazing.

My favorite song by far is the acoustically-plucked "I See Monsters" which has a magnificent melody that sounds like John Lennon on a fucking Quaaludes bender. Does he ever sing like that? Ryan Adams the rocker or Ryan Adams the country balladeer? He sounds haunted. Absolutely haunted by a nasty evil ghost, I dunno if its drugs or depression or just some chick ditching him, but he whispers in this gruff falsetto that just lifts the song into another level.

You all know ol' Braniel here is unapologetic about the shit he likes, so instead I'm just gonna recommend the hell out of this one. Heart hurting? Lonely? Sad? Dark mood? Yeah, me neither, right? But if you ever do find yourself in one of those nasty t'ings, this album's your tonic. Yeah, it'll make you worse, but its such a delicious hurt.


jess said...

I have been CRAVING something like this. Just downloaded the album after giving each song you recommended a good listening.

Oh and, not hip? WHATEVER.


Ashley! said...

I feel ya, I get shit for liking him too. I only know like one other person beside me that likes him. But really, I don't just like him, I adore him. "Gold" and "Heartbreaker" saved my life. And of course "To be young (is to be sad and high)" is one of those songs I would sell my tits to have written.

kelly said...

i think the problem with ryan adams is the three people i have known to WORSHIP at his altar, happened to be three people whose preachy bad taste in everything also bugged the shit out of me. so i blackballed him. i didnt want to have anything in common with the agro-vegan-cocky-bike messenger-alterna-hippie-lite following he seemed to have. the assumption being he would somehow be one of those people, if those people revere him, right? which is so stupid, and i realize its not his fault who latches onto his music, but maybe he just has a rep for irritating fans? and people judge his music based on those fans? i dunno. but i did. cause i'm often irrationally judgey like that. but now, as with everything else I NEVER DREAMED i would do (grateful dead) with your endorsement, i'll check out said album. cause your the best jon, and i trust you implicitly.

Alan said...

As you know I LOVE Ryan Adams. I do not understand the crap he gets as he does not release bad records, in fact he didn't release several great records which are still sitting in the vaults awaiting a threatened 5 CD box set.

But Love Is Hell is indeed a great album (as it is now) - or two albums (as it came out) - I'm stuck with the two CDs rather than one.

Even his last ep (longer than some albums) is a blinder though. Blue Hotel is one of his very best songs ever,

belsum said...

And what would Hurley himself have to say about this, eh? Hee!

Anonymous said...

"Summer of 69" always makes me cry. Every time.


Anonymous said...

Okay, just kidding.


kingseyeland said...

I loves me some Ryan Adams, but when I saw him live, I was bored shitless and annoyed at the crowd and how he actually seemed to respond to pretty much every heckler.

But the man hasn't done a bad record.