Ryan Adams - 1989: Album Review
Ryan Adams - 1989: Album Review
- Genre : Indie
- Type: News
- Author : Super Admin
- Date : Tue, 22 Dec 2015
(Pax-Am Records) Some albums transcend typical enjoyment and creep into your soul. You live with the artist's words and melodies. Maybe it's because you feel like songs are describing your life or relating feelings you couldn't express in your own words. However trite this all sounds, most of us have gone through a similar experience but hardly any of us have a platform to show our gratitude to the artist. That is, unless you're Ryan Adams.
When Adams started hinting at covering Taylor Swift's 1989 in its entirety earlier this year, it was easy to take it as a joke. A cult-favorite songwriter known for fanboying over Black Flag taking on a Billboard topping pop album? It all seemed very tongue-in-cheek to take these blockbuster hits and parse them down on acoustic guitars. But in actuality, it's coming from a place of love and admiration. In an excellent interview with Grantland, Adams gushes over the Swift's pop craftwork and describes her song as "very vulnerable and brave and all the stuff I love about Hüsker Dü or Bob Mould's records."
That's the thing about Adams. He's been consistently hard to pin down over the years in terms of taste and passions. He started in the alternative country realm with his band Whiskeytown and acclaimed solo records like Heartbreaker and Gold. While those are some of his most successful projects, he's unwilling to stay put. He's written sci-fi metal opuses and recorded freestyle raps for his website. He doesn't do these things to be ironic. He does them because he genuinely enjoys them. Swift's 1989 is no different.
His comparison of Swift to Mould is worth noting. Just last year Adams put out 1984, a vivacious punk rock record clocking in under 15 minutes. It was an homage to the sounds of those Hüsker Dü and SST records that spoke to him in his youth, just like 1989 is a tribute to the songs that speak to him now. Both projects carry the same air of earnestness, just replacing mangled guitar riffs with sweeping string arrangements and enchanting fingerpicking. They're both homages, but both distinctly Adams'.
Listen to "Shake It Off" from Ryan Adams:
"Welcome To New York" opens the album with organ drones and seagull squawks – likely an homage to the Swift's shirt on the cover of the original 1989. Soon it all implodes into a clamor of chugging acoustic guitar chords and piano embellishments. It all breaks down yet again, with Adams voice peering over a booming bass line. If it weren't a cover, it'd be easy to assume the song is Adams writing a spiritual successor to Gold's "New York, New York". It's one of the first indications that Adams and Swift aren't so different after all, they just execute their ideas in different manners. Adams understands her enthusiasm for the city and translates it in the language he knows best: big guitar hooks and lush, rock and roll production.
We get our first big spin on Swift's work with Adams' stripped-down rendition of "Blank Space". While Swift's feels like a self-affirming anthem for break-ups and bouncing back, Adams wallows in his losses. He wistfully fingerpicks while whisperingly cooing about ex-lovers and pining for someone new. There are few tweaks in the lyrics as well, most notably are his omitting of Swift's spoken lines like "I can make the bad guys good for a weekend." As with the rest of the album, he does change pronouns to be masculine. But the most interesting changes are subtle, like changing "cause we're young and we're reckless" to "so goddamn reckless".
His willingness to adjust the content, which many Swift fans could consider akin to heresy, helps break down the barrier between cover and reinterpretation. It helps the listener suspend disbelief and dismisses any unintentional humor. All this doesn't mean Adams isn't having fun with it. On his fiery version of "Style" he throws in some Sonic Youth Easter eggs with the absurdly awesome chorus, singing, "You've got that Daydream Nation look in your eye/I got that pent up love thing that you like". The song captures an '80s rock aesthetic, akin to the vibe he tapped into his self-titled record he released last year. He continues the college rock approach with "All You Had To Do Was Stay." The pleading chorus suits his ragged voice, harkening