Ryan Adams – Prisoner Review 


The authentic, acerbic solo tunes of Ryan Adams have sketched out the folk-rock movement since the beginning of the decade, be it the moody heartbreak songs, the triumphant energisers, or a questionable cover of the whole Taylor Swift 1989 album. It was the former of those three options that fans were anticipating for upcoming album Prisoner, after his divorce from Mandy Moore, finalised in 2016. And to an extent, yes, this is what he has delivered, but in a strange kind of way.

The hype was immediately built at the release of three intriguing singles: Do You Really Love Me?, To Be Without You and Doomsday. Do You Still Love Me? showcases the confrontation of wholehearted folk acoustic, mystic synths and perky riffs. To Be Without You is a stripped back country-esque ballad. Though the instrumentalism is fairly light-hearted, the lyrics bog the track down: according to Adams, “nothing really matters anymore” – a depressing sentiment in the wake of relationship breakdown. I feel as though it’s a confusing track in its merging of feelings; sometimes it can be got away with, but because this track is quite bare it doesn’t really work. Doomsday gives off a Springsteen-like vibe in its simple strums and blusey notions. Once again, it is fairly morose in its lyricism. These tracks set the tone for the whole tracklist, the gloomy undertones of the latter present most prominently on Breakdown, Broken Anyway and Shiver and Shake. The rock fervency explored in Do You Really Love Me? never seems to be revisited; after this track (which happens to be number one) the album becomes considerably less interesting. Lost in the soft rock is hushed fury that would’ve good to let out, especially coupled with the beautiful vocals Adams provides.

There’s not a lot else to say about the album. I like its very unedited nature, sticking true to the no-nonsense folk he is so good at. But the incessant sullen tracks take their toll after a while, it is never wholly exciting or something I would rush back to listening to.

Ryan Adams – Prisoner: 5/10

By Eleanor Chivers

This Weeks Music Video with Elbow, Ryan Adams, British Sea Power, Pond, Alex Lahey and Real Estate 

Single Review – Ryan Adams – Doomsday 

In the build up to February’s release of Prisoner, Ryan Adams has released three singles: Do You Still Love Me, To Be Without You, and, most recently, Doomsday. Doomsday recalls the hearty folk rock of his previous albums, interweaving Springsteen-esque notions into the defiant instrumentalism. The track slides in using a bluesy harmonica, upheld by a characteristically-Ryan Adams simplistic strum, the folky feel complimenting his warm vocals. The combination of robust vocals and backing track meet their climax in the chorus, when a roar of guitar follows each vigorous exclamation of ‘my love.’ The lyrics themselves are fervid yet glum, the solemn messages of heartbreak intensified by the vigorous instrumentalism. It’s a good song – a little boring, and nothing out of the ordinary – but a good song.
By Eleanor Chivers

Single Review – Ryan Adams – Do You Still Love Me?

Ryan Adams has made it clear what the inspiration behind his sixteenth studio album was; his divorce. Now the album title of Prisoner is more pointed and the release date on the next release date after Valentines Day becomes a feature of what will seemingly be an emotionally charged album. If that wasn’t proof enough, then the lead single ‘Do You Still Love Me?’ hammers the message home. The oscillating organs that open the track are the foundation for punching riffs and Ryan’s rough-edged vocals. Musically, the song has a late 1980’s stadium rock feel to it, almost like his near namesake Bryan Adams. The dramatics are taken to another level with a tearing guitar solo from which the power of the track extends. Ryan Adams has never been one to experiment with new sounds, but here he really delivers the style better than anyone else and with a deep lyrical content. Should make for an interesting album at least.

Owen Riddle 

La Sera – Music For Listening to Music to Review

American indie-rock trio La Sera released the follow up to their grungy third studio album, Hour of the Dawn, on 4th March 2016. However, their new material, Music for Listening to Music to, released by Polyvinyl, takes a much more relaxed approach than the heady tunes of its predecessor. With the guidance of Ryan Adams, Katy Goodman, Todd Wiesenbaker and Daniel Gomez have explored a completely different direction, demonstrating that La Sera will never fail to surprise their avid admirers.
The album opens with the enthusiastic High Notes. The track is seemingly an immediate sign post to the diverse and courageous route the band have travelled along with this album. The song is introduced by a distinctively country, beautifully textured guitar riff – quickly establishing Adams’ influence to this album – before indulging in the dreamy yet haunting vocals that Goodman provides. The country vibe is enhanced by the intermittent harmonica towards the end. Goodman’s is not a voice you would tend to associate with the feverish country style; it shouldn’t work, but it just does. The vitality of the track paired with Goodman’s calming influence balances out the sounds in a sophisticated way. Though there’s a certain elegance to this flamboyant number, lyrics such as “I’m sorry, is this song too slow?” pays homage to La Sera’s previous rebellious punk hits.
Following High Notes is the tamer A Thousand Ways. Once again, simple guitar riffs provide the gateway for Goodman, yet this track identifies greater with the folk/indie genre. This seems to be the case for the majority of the tracklist; High Notes definitely stands out as the most country-like and up beat from the other tracks. Track number one is definitely the album’s most profound asset; as soon as it reaches it’s close, Music for Listening to Music to descends into a downward spiral. High Notes is the antitheses of the solemn vibes manufactured by Take My Heart or Shadow of Your Love, yet these tracks still exhibit the ever-so-popular simplistic riff. The minimalist slant taken to the instrumental side of things does allow Goodman’s entrancing voice to claim its rightful position at centre stage, yet begins to get mundane. Each track seems to have been tackled in an unchanged way, with the next song’s structure not too dissimilar from its neighbour. After the jaunty High Notes, the tracks deteriorate, with a hasty romantic rejuvenation provided by a duet from the newlyweds, Goodman and Wiesenbaker, as featured on I Need an Angel. Overall, the album is easy to listen to, but after the flash of fun in the opening two minutes and five seconds, plus the addition of truly unique vocals, nothing strays far from polite folky guitars and humble riffs.
La Sera – Music for Listening to Music to = 6/10

Eleanor Chivers

Pingrove – Cardinal Review

The effort of trying to convert alt-country music into a more rock infused sound is hardly a new idea (see Ryan Adams and Ben Kweller). The slacker indie style that Pinegrove bring to ‘Cardinal’ makes it on occasion sound rather ordinary despite the more unique country elements they have. Indeed, the character the album’s songwriter Evan Stephens Hall has created is very similar to that of many other indie bands; that of the well-read lovelorn teenager. Even musically the LP is a little routine. Although the blending of traditional country instruments like the pedal steel on occasion comes off very well but isn’t a significant enough part of the album to warrant the praise that ‘Cardinal’ has been getting. In general, Pinegrove’s ‘Cardinal’ has been very well received. It has an immensely impressive critical rating of 85 on metacritic.com putting it among some prestigious company; a similar rating to that of David Bowie, Pusha T, Savages and Grimes.

Cardinal opens with ‘Old Friends’ which finds the act in a reflective mood as they look back on the happy times they had with their ‘old friends’ before they got “too caught up in their own shit”. The spikey bassline is offset against twangy banjo’s and expanding pedal steels; traditional indie meets traditional country. In many ways this is symbolic of the album as a whole. Though it successfully combines these two elements it doesn’t really feel like anything hugely new has been created.

‘Then Again’ catches the band in a more fun mood characterised by its quick spiky pop-punk bassline and messy clashing guitars as Hall asks the listener to “try one more time with feeling, it’s easy”. Although the track is unmistakably catchy, musically it traverses the same, well-tread ground that indie acts of the previous decades have already done. The up-beat attitude of ‘Then Again’ is then contrasted with the more sombre ‘Aphasia’. It is here that the band better blend in the country elements into their overarching indie sound. The slower pace of the song undoubtedly helps this process, as does the Hall’s impressive lyrics and voice (sounding much better in this context). ‘Cardinal’ ends on a more optimistic note with “New Friends”. The song starts with what it is clearly a Ryan Adams style opening before it transgresses into a fairly routine indie style track.

Given the praise this album has received it fell immensely short of my expectations. Although this review may sound fairly negative, the album is still a good effort for the act. There are undoubted strengths in the album too, the use of the pedal steel and banjo are interesting and should be utilised more if they want to create a more unique sound.

Pinegrove – Cardinal = 7/10

Callum Christie

This Week’s Music Video with Interpol, The Raveonettes, Ryan Adams. SBTRKT, M83 and Antlers

This Week’s Music Video with Arcade Fire, Johnny Marr, Röyksopp & Robyn, Basement Jaxx, Ryan Adams and Womens Hour

Arcade Fire – You Already Know

 

Johnny Marr – Easy Money

 

Röyksopp & Robyn – Monument

 

Basement Jaxx – Galactical

 

Ryan Adams – Gimme Something Good

 

Women’s Hour – In Stillness We Remain

 

 

 

Single Review – Ryan Adams – Gimme Something Good

Ryan Adams is back with his first album since 2011 and his fourteenth studio effort which is fourteen years after his debut album. The first single to come from this is ‘Gimme Something Good’. It’s nothing special by any means. It is extremely well delivered however. A delivery of a low slung, classic American guitar track. Evocative of a lot of the late 70’s U.S rock groups and the likes of Tom Petty too. The bold reverbing guitar is broken down as into the song’s structure on the verses, but changes into a light, swelling jingle on the melodic chorus. It’s very simple in that sense and brings the focus on Ryan’s capable delivery of his lyrics. It’s not going to change the world but it’s just an honest, classic guitar track.