My first time hearing Ryan Adams’ self-titled record was one of the best listening experiences of my recent memory. I had intentionally avoided listening to any of the singles that were released to radio, save for a small section of the album’s opening track on XM one afternoon. Thus the clichés begin, first with my preordering of the album, followed by my giddiness at its arrival at my doorstep, and then with my delicate placing of the record (yes, I bought the vinyl) onto my portable turntable. I was sitting with my roommate in our living room when the first chord of “Gimme Something Good” ripped the album open, a stark, nostalgic introduction to Adams’ first record in three years. The record is more rock influenced than some of its predecessors, Adams sticking to his Stratocaster and saving the acoustic guitar for the delicate loneliness of “My Wrecking Ball” and the mournful closer “Let Go.” The sparse ballad “Kim” and the building strum of “I Just Might” are testaments to Adams’ superb sense of simplicity and his ear for evocative songwriting, something that he’s perfected over his intensely prolific, nearly-two-decade-spanning career. “Shadows” is a particularly spare composition, one that swirls and hums, ultimately culminating in an aching tribute to lost time, Adam’s asking “How long do I have here with you?” As contradictory as it may seem, Adams wields the album’s warmth and sense of heart to communicate an ethereal, dark sense of tribulation. “Trouble” and “Am I Safe?” are riddled with insecurity and an anxious sense of self-doubt, while “Tired of Giving Up” and “Feels Like Fire” appear as steady, upbeat ruminations on the pangs of at-risk love. The album demonstrates a flawless sense of melody throughout, one that evokes a powerful, melancholy sense of longing. Ryan Adams is ultimately a documentation of the loneliness of love, the isolation and restlessness spurred by lost or unrequited affection.
By Nick Biland