On Tuesday, I was one of those people who rush out to buy albums. This week it was Ryan Adams’ new album Easy Tiger. Much of what I’ve read says that Ryan has turned his life around, gone sober, fixed everything. It’s great for him personally but I quickly noticed that there is a darkness missing from his music that drew you in and kept you there. Over the past few years it seems that everyone has wondered where the seemingly lost, wonderful Ryan Adams had gone. Where was the musician with all the potential? I would be one to argue that he was there in front of us all along. His works on Love is Hell (Pt. 1 & 2), Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights, and 29 far surpassed anything from his earlier works. They were among some of the best music released in the past few years.
Many of these csame ritics feel that Ryan Adams has reached the golden age of the past with his new work on Easy Tiger. I find the album listenable but overall a little too easy. Let me start by saying I like the album but find it to be one of his more average works. I understand that Lost Highway is making a big push, that Ryan has cleaned himself up and that respectable society is welcoming him back, that the public relations machine has been working in overdrive, and that the critics are maligning all his old work so that the new work can be accepted but I feel like this record (yes I still call them records) doesn’t challenge the listener or the artist.
So how is it too easy? I find it a little over produced, a little too safe, a little too slick and smooth (it doesn’t make me stop what I’m doing to listen to it). It’s not rock, it’s not country (or even alt-country)… it’s pop. Sometimes too pop. The first half of the album feels very flat to me, like all the emotion has been drained out. From the pre-release reviews I expected something more. Something like the perfection of Cold Roses crossed with Jacksonville City Nights. Instead I feel like I got an album that could be titled Plastic Roses.
My goal here isn’t to crap all over this album though. I still think Ryan Adams is better than 99.5% of everything else out there. I’m just doing what everyone else, every other bullshit reviewer does… compare him to himself. Honestly, I think in 20 years we’re going to be looking back on a catalog of music that could be called Dylanesque (my apologies to Bryan Ferry). The problem is that music reviewers seem to want EVERY album to be a masterpiece now. Every album must show an artist’s full potential. On top of that, the world is turned on it’s head. Good artists are criticized for not being either totally pop-friendly or avant-garde, while shitty acts (90% of what is on the radio) are held up as the paragons of virtue.
So getting back to Ryan Adams and the album at hand. I think there are some strong and some weak songs on the album. Some that stand out and sing and some that are a little over produced and hide Ryan’s talent…
While in need of some of their rough edges back, I do think there are a few really good songs on this album. Those include Tears of Gold, Pearls on a String, Two Hearts, and These Girls. These, for me, are almost equal to the songs on Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights. They have that feel, that soul.
Goodnight Rose: To be honest, while it’s a good song this song DOES sound like one from Cold Roses that should have been left on the cutting room floor. It’s not memorable and kind of bops along.
Two: While a beautiful song, it’s the most over produced pop, radio-friendly of the entire album. I would have prefered it if the theme was “it takes two but now there’s only one.”
Oh My God, Whatever, Etc., I Taught Myself How to Grow Old: These songs just seem to blend together. They don’t stand out in my brain even though I’ve been listening to the album for a while now.
There are a few songs I don’t know what to do with. These include On Broadway which was called the dud by a few reviewers. If anything it captures the most emotion on the album.
Everybody Knows and Halloweenhead are the two I still can’t figure out. Are they good, are they lazy? Do they need another take?
To end my long winded rant, Ryan Adams gives up the soul and pain for production value and an editor in this album. Personally I think it’s a bad trade as this record isn’t as strong as his last three.