Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Renowned For Sound

For the latest music reviews and interviews

Album Review: Ryan Adams – 1989

2 min read

Ryan Adams and Taylor Swift are more alike than one may initially think. Both are intelligent, nuanced songwriters, capable of crafting strong pop hooks without ever trading in the more alternative elements of their respective sounds. Both are famous for drawing on their personal lives when writing lyrics, and indeed both have had their personal lives scrutinised by the headline-hungry media machine. And, perhaps most strikingly, both debuted with assured country records only to later take their sound in a more ‘commercial’ direction, much to the chagrin of critics and their dyed in the wool fans.

Ryan Adams - 1989 So, though Ryan Adams’ front to back cover of 1989 wasn’t necessarily inevitable, it makes a lot of sense. It also happens to be, simply put, the record of the year so far, a towering achievement that serves as a stunning testament to Swift and Adams’ myriad of talents. With its emotional intelligence, power and style, it is a genuinely awe-inspiring work; not a carbon copy of a masterpiece, but a masterpiece in its own right.

Throughout, Adams demonstrates his willingness to be flexible with the material. At times, as on the breath-taking Blank Space, he strips the songs down almost to nothing, uncovering the essential structure of the tunes and baring the powerful emotion that drives them. Then, at other times, he adds layer after layer of instrumentation, turning the brilliant I Wish You Would into a baroque, dense waltz that gains intensity and power with every sonic sweep.

Adams’ vocals are as striking as ever; his powerful version of Style features his half-howled timbres at their most powerful, but he knows when to rein things in as well, and delivers a subtle, carefully controlled performance on the raw How You Get The Girl. Further kudos must go to his heartbreaking version of This Love, a tune so honest and raw that it calls to mind his own masterpiece Sylvia Plath, while still paying tribute to its essential Swiftian elements.

Adams’ 1989 delivers on every single conceivable front. It’s a stunning reminder that alternative rock and pop share more in common than either side might always be ready to admit, and with its gentle, striking beauty, it is an unparalleled emotional trip. It is hard to imagine that there will be many records released this year that will top this one. 2015, it seems, has just peaked.