Fall Spotify Playlist: Autumn Sweater

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yesterday was the official beginning of Fall, which means it’s time to break out the pumpkin spice latte (or Oktoberfest), sit out on your porch and read a book, or finally take that road trip you’ve been meaning to do before it gets too cold outside. No matter what you end up doing this Fall, these songs will fit the many moods of the changing leaves.

Happy Fall!

Continue Reading

Ryan Adams’s Rock N Roll Is Now 10 Years Old, And It’s Gotten Better

Ryan_Adams_Rock_N_Roll

10 years ago this month Ryan Adams released Rock N Roll, a creative left turn album that found Adams trading country songwriting for rock guitars. It was initially considered a commercial failure and, even worse, a bland disappointment for fans (though “So Alive” proved to be a decent radio hit). But 10 years later, Ryan Adams’s own classic-rock album has aged well enough for many fans, including myself, to revisit it and admit that, “ok, this is actually pretty good.”

Looking back on Adams’s career, it makes sense for him to record Rock N Roll. Adams was always more than just a Gram Parsons for a new generation. He had roots in metal and punk music, and his previous band Whiskeytown was considered alternative country simply because of Adams’s songwriting rooted in classic rock and punk. But in 2003, the world was expecting another Gold or Heartbreaker. His previous release Demolition, though now generally well received, was the first Ryan Adams record that wasn’t universally praised by critics and fans, and they all were hoping that Adams would get back in line and release another classic album. Unfortunately for them, Rock N Roll was the exact opposite of what they wanted, and the album got panned even more. But now, after 10 years, many people are coming back to this record with a new sense of love.

There is no country on this record, and the closest we get is the beautiful piano ballad that is the title track. Everything else on Rock N Roll is full of electric guitars and Adams spitting out the most straight forward rock lyrics he has ever written. The songs are sloppy and loose, which makes sense considering that the album was supposedly written and recorded in just two weeks.

Rock N Roll embodies both the good and bad effects of an artists in the early 2000s trying to recapture the classic-rock feel of 70s rock. Nearly ever song is about drug use or about people using drugs, or about using drugs to get over girls (that covers the whole Sex, Drugs, and Rock N Roll checklist). Even the song titles hint at where the  inspirations are coming from (“1974”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Note To self: Don’t Die”, “The Drugs Not Working”). The hooks are undeniably catchy as hell, and Adams knows that he can write a blistering rock song in his sleep. The bad part is that sometimes it sounds like Adams is writing these songs in his sleep. Throughout the album, there seems to be a lack sincerity from an artist who became famous for writing one of the most sincere albums of the past decades, and an artist being insensitive to his fans is a hard pill for some to swallow.

But all the sloppiness and cockiness of Rock N Roll has evolved from annoying to charming. “Wish You Were Here” and “Burning Photographs” are some of Adams’s best songs, and “Rock N Roll” could have been on HeartbreakerRock N Roll, if recorded today in 2013, would sound like a more honest (and more fun) rock record, much more than it was in 2003. It’s not the best Ryan Adams record you’ll ever hear, but I’d be damn if you don’t find yourself turning up the volume on “So Alive” and “Do Miss America”.

Continue Reading

10 Songs To Introduce You To…Ryan Adams

Welcome to the first post in a new series called “10 Songs To Introduce You To…”.

Here I try to find ten songs from a particular artist/band and discuss how those songs represent certain key periods of that band’s career. These songs include solo songs and songs with other bands, their biggest hits, their famous covers, and anything else that’s worth sharing. Warning: these posts are not for the diehard fans but rather for the curious newcomers.

I’d like to kick off this segment with one of my all time favorite artists — Ryan Adams.

Ryan+Adams+Unreleased+n684901978_1849320_3293

Part of me thinks that it isn’t a good idea to start off this series with Ryan Adams since I have such a personal connection to his music. He’s my go to answer whenever anyone asks me who my favorite musician is, and each of his albums have played very memorable roles in my life – like how many people do it with other albums, I tend to define certain periods of my life by what Ryan Adams album I was listening to at that time.

But it is because I love his music so much that I want you to know who he is. Now I’ve set the limit to ten songs, which means that I’m excluding two-hundred other great songs of his that I wished everybody could hear.

But oh well, here goes something.

Mr. David Ryan Adams hails from Jacksonville, North Carolina and first received major attention as the main singer-songwriter of Whiskeytown, one of the premiere bands of the y’alternative movement of the mid 90s.

whiskeytown

Whiskeytown, like the genre they helped popularized, combined punk attitude with country songwriting, and Adams, at the very young age of 20, was already a more than capable songwriter. Whiskeytown released three great studio albums (Faithless Street, Strangers Almanac, and Pneumonia) and a handful of EPs before breaking up in 2000. Though Adams had the largest writing and singing presence, the band wouldn’t have been nearly as good without Caitlin Cary on the fiddle and backup vocals and the rest of the band backing up Adams.

1)  “Midway Park”

The album opener of Whiskeytown’s first album Faithless Street. For many people, this not-quite-punk-but-not-quite-country song was the first time anyone heard Adams sing.

2) “16 Days”

From Strangers Almanac, this is a more radio-friendly song that would become one of Whiskeytown’s biggest hits.

After Whiskeytown, Adams went straight to work on his first solo album, 2000’s Heartbreaker.

heartbreaker-ryan-adams

Considered by most critics to be his best album, Heartbreaker is for many people the album that converts them into fans. This was my first album review on Headphone Nation and it remains to this day my favorite Ryan Adams album, though I don’t listen to it as much as I used to since A) I’ve listened to it too many times and B) he has plenty of other great albums.

3) “Oh My Sweet Carolina”

In 2010 this song was added to a compilation of 1,001 songs you must hear before you die, and for good reason. If you ever feel homesick (or if you’re from North Carolina) then this song will hit you where it hurts. And that’s the great country legend Emmylou Harris on vocals!

4) “Come Pick Me Up”

I’m torn about having two songs off the same album, but this song is too good to not put on here (I also wanted to include album opener “To Be Young [Is To Be Sad, To Be High]”, but you should just check that out here). This song also has Emmylou Harris on vocals, but this is all Adams here. This is his finest breakup song, and it’s the best song off his best album. A harmonica intro never sounded so devastating.

Ryan_Adams_Gold

Adams’s next album Gold earned him even more fame and established him (even if it was just for a little while) as one of his generation’s best songwriters. The album moved Adams into classic rock territory and was full of songs that could have been on FM radio back in the 70s along with Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. This is the album that I would recommend to someone as their first Ryan Adams album.

5) “New York, New York”

Probably Adams’s most famous music video, since it was filmed four days before 9/11 and showed the World Trade Center in much of the video. The song itself is actually about a troubled relationship with New York as a backdrop, but the song, with its chorus of “I’ll always love you New York”, has evolved into a love letter to the great city.

Ryan_Adams_Rock_N_Roll

After Gold, Adams released Demolition, a collection of b-sides and various tracks, and Rock N Roll, which, as the name implies, is heavier on the rock n roll and not so much on his signature alt-country. Even to this day public opinion of these albums are split due to Adams’s sudden drastic stylistic changes, and while I personally think these two albums are great many tend to dismiss them. Still, there are some great songs from this era, including the minor hit “So Alive”.

6) “So Alive”

Love_Is_Hell

Adams’s next album Love Is Hell could be Ryan Adams’s most depressing album (Heartbreaker was more sad than depressing). This album particularly showcases the large influence The Smiths and other sad Britpop bands had on Adams, but the true highlight is his incredible cover of Oasis’s “Wonderwall”.

7) “Wonderwall”

Cold_roses

After Love Is Hell, Adams formed The Cardinals and would release his next four official studio albums with the band (although 2005’s 29 and 2007’s Easy Tiger are billed as solo albums – The Cardinals played on Easy Tiger, so most consider it a Cardinals album).

8) “Let It Ride”

Off 2005’s Cold Roses, this best sums up the sound of The Cardinals, a band that reminded many people of Whiskeytown but with more country and less punk. The Grateful Dead influence is especially strong on “Let It Ride”.

RA_ET_MINI_FNL.qxd

In 2007 Adams decided to get sober, and every release after 2007 tends to be pinned down as his “weaker sober albums”. I too tend to view Adams’s career as pre-Easy Tiger and post-Easy Tiger, since every album after 2007 has been a lot more mellow (he would record a science fiction metal album a couple of years later, but yeah for the most part pretty mellow).

9) “Two”

Off Easy Tiger, which was the first album released after Adams’s sobriety, this song would go on to be one of his biggest hits. This song, which features a duet with Sheryl Crow, is proof that sobriety does not mean the end of a music career.

Ryan-adams-ashes-fire

Adams’s most recent release, 2011’s Ashes & Fire, is a testament to where Adams has been and where he might be going in the future. The album finds Adams in a rare state of happiness, and though the album takes its sweet time it sounds like he’s enjoying every minute of it. “Lucky Now” is not only a great single but also a good summary of where the singer-songwriter is now.

10) “Lucky Now”

Well those are (what I believe to be) the ten songs that’ll get you started off the right track into the wonderful world of Ryan Adams. Look online and you’ll find many other lists with very different opinions (because he has so many damn songs!) but I encourage you to keep digging!

Continue Reading

Playlist: 15 Songs For July 2012 (Via Spotify)

This month’s playlist is a bit on the sadder side. I’ve got ballads and sad songs from Bruce Springsteen, Chet Baker, Glen Campbell, Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen. But don’t worry, I’ve also got some upbeat summer songs to top off July.

Here are my 15 songs for July 2012.

Continue Reading

Playlist: 15 songs For May 2012 (Via Spotify)

Well I’m not too happy with not being able to post as much as I usually do, but nothing can stop me from giving ya’ll my 15 songs for May.

Here’s a little question for you. One of these 15 songs was voted the number one song of the 90s according to NME. Can you guess which one it is?

Here are my 15 songs for May 2012.

Continue Reading

I Was There: Ryan Adams Live in Louisville (With Setlist)

Ryan Adams at the Louisville Palace Monday night was a special show – a solo acoustic show that was both powerful and entertaining.  He performed his songs passionately, and in between songs he interacted with the audience with his dark humor and wit.  Throughout the show he had issues with his guitar tuning, pointing out that he had let Sonic Youth borrow his guitar the night before.  Ryan was charmingly cynical about his work and poked fun at his lack of “happy songs”.  When he introduced his songs he would start by saying stuff like, “This is a protest song…about happiness”, or, “This is another song about my feelings.”

The songs played were from various points from Adams’s career, mostly from his solo beginnings with Heartbreaker and Gold and from his most recent Ashes & Fire.  His old songs still sounded great in various acoustic and piano renditions, and the new tracks off of Ashes & Fire already sound like classics.  Notable highlights included a slow piano rendition of “New York, New York”, an unexpectedly folky rendition of “Two”, a crowd sing-a-long to fan favorite “Come Pick Me Up”, and a faithful cover of Alice In Chains’s “Nutshell”.

Here’s the set list.

Oh My Sweet Carolina

Ashes & Fire

If I Am A Stranger

Dirty Rain

My Winding Wheel

Sweet Lil Gal (23rd/1st)

Invisible Riverside

Everybody Knows

Firecracker

Let It Ride

Sylvia Plath

Chains of Love

Please Do Not Let Me Go

Lucky Now

Rescue Blues

Wonderwall

Crossed Out Name

New York, New York

Two

This House Is Not For Sale

16 Days (Whiskeytown)

Come Pick Me Up

Encore

Avenues (Whiskeytown)

Go Easy

Nutshell (Alice In Chains cover)

Continue Reading

Soundtrack to Bloomington

Over the weekend I went down to IU, and when I had some free time I purchased many new albums that for some reason I could not find back home.  College will be such a great place to discover new music!

Miles Davis – In A Silent Way

A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory

James Black – James Blake

The Band – The Band

The drive down to IU is long, but these albums made the three-hour ride much more enjoyable.

The Black Crowes – Before The Frost

Whiskeytown – Faithless Street

The Grateful Dead – American Beauty

Continue Reading