26 June 2007
"Oh My God, Whatever, Etc." indeed.
Ryan Adams' new album is out, and boy have I been ready for it. I mean, the man's wearing a calculator watch on the cover! Several promising tracks leaked ("Two," "Halloweenhead," and "Everybody Knows"), thereby filling me with even more girlish glee.
First off, Easy Tiger is allegedly Adams' first album completed entirely in a state of sobriety. Coincidentally or not, it's also gotten the biggest push from the industry- even being sold at Starbucks. Stephen King (yes, the Stephen King) even wrote a review, stating the album "maybe the best Ryan Adams CD ever." That's a tall order. A VERY tall order. Adams has put out more albums (official or otherwise), than probably any of his contemporaries. Granted, not all of the releases have been absolute genius, but he has a solid repertoire and the ability to change his style at will. Not many people like Ryan Adams "the Man," but he is extremely self-aware and smarter than you may think; he holds no qualms about choosing creative freedom and candidness over polished popularity and radio play (perhaps proving it best with his last release 29, or his slew of internet-only tracks like "Dracula Swimtrunks" and "Badazz.")
Ironically, my defense of Adams comes with a clause- I've got a problem with Easy Tiger. I'm a bit dissatisfied- left wanting something that Adams just didn't provide on this album. The melodies are quality- maybe not as varied as they could be- but tight and right. The production is good- similar to that of Jacksonville City Nights. Most of the lyrics, however, are bland and feel like a cheap imitation of Adams circa Heartbreaker. The album also feels lopsided- nearly all of the really good tracks are on the first half of the CD, leaving one with an off-kilter album that lacks pace and cohesion.
That's not to say the album is without merit. "Oh My God, Whatever, Etc." is a beautiful and simple arrangement when Adams lets his whispery voice add more weight to the song than the slightly cheeky title would ever suggest. (See an amazing performance of the song here.) "Everybody Knows" is a sad but surprisingly upbeat track, putting you in the mood to sing... perhaps along with the next one: "Halloweenhead." A weird and wonderful leftover from Adams' last tour, "Halloweenhead" finds its roots in bizarre slang privy only to the most dedicated of Adams fans (a dictionary can be found at his site.) And, seriously, who doesn't love a song that announces a guitar solo by actually yelling, "guitar solo?"
Unfortunately, there are more disappointments, including 2 rehashed tracks: "Two Girls" (a lesser version of the oldie/goodie "Hey There Mrs Lovely"), and "Off Broadway," which I was disappointed to see on this album... having already been disappointed by it the first time I heard it on the unofficial collection, The Suicide Handbook. "Rip Off" and "Tears of Gold" are just plain unexciting and rather tedious. "Two Hearts" and "The Sun Also Sets" are ripe with potential to be bigger and better- but one may have to wait to see them live to know if that's actually true.
Anyone who knows me knows that Ryan Adams is, for better or for worse, my favorite artist. 13 out of my top 25 played songs on iTunes are by Adams (including the top spot.) If I dwell on Easy Tiger a while longer, I know I'll end up well-nigh enjoying it- letting those warm guitar sounds blend into the balmy summer evenings. But it's hard to be patient when I know that I could just throw on Heartbreaker or Cold Roses and not have to skip a single track.
For my boy though, I'll give it another easy spin.