Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: "III/IV" (album review)

Personally, I think Ryan Adams is at his most enjoyable when he lets the rock creep into his music.  His country-influenced work is his hallmark, but there's something about a happier sounding Adams that makes me want to reach for those records.

That makes his latest album with The Cardinals, III/IV, a solid listen for me.  The album is his most rock-filled work since Rock N Roll.  Unlike that previous foray into the genre however, Adams loses the concept of riffing off rock classics and just concerns himself with writing good songs. That pays dividends with a record that is solid from start to finish.  It's difficult to produce a 21-song album that has no filler, but Adams comes extremely close ("Death and Rats" and "Icebreaker" being the only potential exceptions to that).

There's nothing fancy about these songs from an arrangement standpoint, and that's probably why they work so well.  Adams doesn't try to expound much on the tried and true rock formula, and really there's no reason to.  The formula has worked for decades and it works again here.

The tone is set with the opener "Breakdown Into the Resolve".  The midtempo number boasts a hook that isn't razor sharp, but is strong enough to keep you on for more.  Adams builds on that, until things climax with the soaring "Lovely and Blue" and the Replacements-esque "Numbers".

The second part of the record, IV, is more diverse.  On song like "My Favorite Song" we hear Adams revert ever so slightly towards the twang that he's best known for.  We're also treated to some roll with the rock as "Star Wars" bounces along.  The album closer, "Kill The Lights", verges on a punk rock statement.

"Typecast" shows that Adams' wit is still sharp.  Clever turns of phrase pop up throughout the album, tracks like "Kisses Start Wars" and "Users" being among the highlights.

III/IV may not hold any songs that will become Ryan Adams classics (like a "Two" or "Oh My Sweet Carolina"), but from front-to-back it is arguably his most consistent and listenable album in years.

Best tracks: "Numbers", "Star Wars"

Track listing for III/IV:
  • Breakdown Into The Resolve
  • Dear Candy
  • Wasteland
  • Ultraviolet Light
  • Stop Playing With My Heart
  • Lovely And Blue
  • Happy Birthday
  • Kisses Start Wars
  • The Crystal Skull
  • Users
  • No
  • Numbers
  • Gracie
  • Icebreaker
  • Sewers At The Bottom Of The Wishing Well
  • Typecast
  • Star Wars
  • My Favorite Song
  • P.S.
  • Death And Rats
  • Kill The Lights
Ryan Adams' website

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1 comment:

KAJ said...

See I KNEW you would like it.