Ryan Adams isn’t too popular these days, after a New York Times investigation earlier this year exposed him as an overbearing #metoo villain who promised music industry success to women as a way to get them into his bed.
He is reportedly the subject of an FBI investigation and his current tour, as well as three planned albums, have been postponed indefinitely.
‘Bartering Lines’ is probably my least favorite song on Ryan Adams’ solo debut album, 2000’s Heartbreaker.
I don’t mean that as a slight to this song, which is fine, but as praise for the rest of Heartbreaker. This is one of the greatest alt-country albums, indie rock albums and break-up albums of all time. Adams followed this record the following year with Gold, an equally good album, and never topped either of those achievements again.
Ryan Adams has released 16 albums in the past 17 years. He once went three years without releasing an album, but he had already made up for that by releasing three albums in a single year.
Of all those releases, the two I know best — the only two I know well, really — are the first two. 2000’s Heartbreaker and 2001’s Gold are both excellent, wide-ranging works and among my favorite records of that decade. In fact, it just struck me that I somehow missed that Heartbreaker was a 2000 release or else it surely would have made my personal best-of list.
Best Songs of 2015 – #12
‘Blank Space’ – Ryan Adams
When I reviewed Ryan Adams’ song-for-song recreation of Taylor Swift’s smash hit 1989, I predicted that ‘Blank Space’ would end up on my best-of song list two years in a row by two different artists. Good call.
Adams turns the track into a gentle, breathy ballad, sad where Swift’s (also excellent) version is slightly taunting.
Over the next few weeks I’ll dive into the next installment of an occasional series here at Meet Me in Montauk, where I focus on a single year and post songs from both my favorite albums and the acclaimed albums I’ve never heard.
I started this series with 1972 (my birth year) and subsequently covered 1982 and 1992. Now I jump ahead another decade to 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks, the year I turned 30, the year my first daughter was born.
The most unexpected new release this year has to be Ryan Adams’ song-for-song cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. It’s such a delightfully random project, like a piece of fan fiction come to life.
It also turns out to be a very good album in its own right. Adams is faithful to the melodies and lyrics of Swift’s originals but gives each his own stylistic spin, mostly slowing them down and trading pop rock for folk rock.
Ryan Adams has averaged an album per year since his 2000 solo debut, Heartbreaker (before that, he released a trio of albums with Whiskeytown).
I’m only familiar with a handful of those records, and I definitely have a preference for his alt-country work, including Heartbreaker and the albums he recorded with The Cardinals.
I’m also a big fan of the more rock-focused Gold, probably his best album.