Album of the Week: Ryan Adams, 'Prisoner'


Ryan Adams, 'Prisoner'
Ryan Adams, 'Prisoner' (PAX AM/Blue Note)
David Safar: Album of the Week - Ryan Adams, 'Prisoner'
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Ryan Adams's Prisoner is a career-defining album that makes the perfect follow-up to his cover album of mega-pop star Taylor Swift's 1989. Since Adams's debut solo album, the songwriter, lyricist, and performer has quietly become a prolific artist and producer. Adams's output as a songwriter is documented by the 15 albums released since he started recording under his own name at the start of the century. At his PAX-AM label, Adams has honed his craft as a producer, with the studio serving as a laboratory for his many independent releases and collaborations.

While the nod to Taylor Swift both entertained and agitated some of Adams's core fans, it was the perfect precursor to Prisoner. Perhaps reimagining one of the biggest pop albums of the decade helped Adams gain perspective on his own works. Prisoner is an exercise in perfecting what a tortured love song can and should be, much like pop musicians attempt to recycle and reinvent the clichés of mainstream American culture.

Although the lyrical themes are nothing new to a Ryan Adams album, the execution and arrangement of the songs on Prisoner are nearly perfect. Adams lets his alternative-rock influences loose on the opening of the album before pulling you into the signature angst-driven Americana that defined his first solo work. He utilizes the broad musical vocabulary he has absorbed from influences like Bruce Springsteen and Paul Westerberg without sounding derivative of anything other than his own work.

There's something more personal about Prisoner that feels like an extension of his self-titled release without The Cardinals. Adams has never lacked an authentic voice, but he lets his guard down throughout the new album and lets you into his world. Prisoner transcends Adams' complex emotional response to falling in love and breaking up. The songs aren't just about the universal struggle to relate to each other on a personal level; it's also about relating to the everyday realities of the world. Adams wasn't subtle about releasing the track "Doomsday" on the week of inauguration. The increasingly complex nature of Adams' writing is also revealed in the credits, as he dedicated the album to the late comedian and writer, Garry Shandling.

Ryan Adams' Prisoner is out on Friday on Capitol Records.


PAX-AM Records (Ryan Adams' official site)

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