Mellow sounds for fallPublished 11:04am Monday, October 10, 2011
After a brief hiatus from music, Ryan Adams is back in full swing with “Ashes and Fire” — sort of.
Adams doesn’t exactly roar back with “Ashes and Fire.” The album is slower and more melodic than his core of work with The Cardinals, which broke up a few years ago.
But don’t be fooled by the mellow sound — the album can be a force.
“Ashes and Fire” is an album that rarely reaches up and grabs you at first listen. It’s much more subtle.
Instead, the layers of Adams’ lyrics, the sparse instrumentation and backing vocals evolve over multiple listens.
Adams hasn’t been completely silent since he took a break from music a few years ago.
He released “Orion” and “III/IV” in 2010, but both albums were recorded well before. In a way, Adams sounds content to be recording and singing again.
But, the music reveals changes in Adams. The singer-songwriter has suffered from a inner-ear affliction called Ménière’s disease, which at times causes him to hear tones and affects his balance.
Adams also married singer and actress Mandy Moore (who provides backing vocals on a few tracks). At times, Adams sounds like a rested musician content to sing love ballads.
But with a closer listen, Adams reveals a more complex, layered approach. Some of the songs look back at his struggles with drug addiction.
This is perhaps best shown on “Lucky Now,” a track Adams reportedly wrote when reflecting on the death of The Cardinals bassist and friend Chris Feinstein.
“Lucky Now” is the most heartfelt and haunting track on the album. A retrospective Adams looks back on when he was “wild and young” and examines the man he is compared to the man he was: “I feel like somebody I don’t know / Are we really who we used to be / Am I really who I was.”
The song exudes so much introspection and emotion that other parts of the album pale in comparison.
Adams turns soulful on “Dirty Rain” Now I’m here lookin’ through the rubble / Tryin’ to find out who we were”
Though the album thrives on beautiful, bright-sounding love songs, Adams is at his best on his recent release when his lyrics turn to a questioning tone.
Other Listens: Paul McCartney “Ocean’s Kingdom” 2011
There’s no “Helter Skelter” or “Yesterday” in Paul McCartney’s latest release. In fact, it’s more libretto that rock.
The former Beatles sets aside his Höfner bass to compose the score for the New York City ballet “Ocean’s Kingdom.”
Though producers admitted they involved McCartney to help revive buzz (and audience numbers) for a lagging art form, the music and soundtrack is a charming listen.
The orchestra piece is ideal for those who can listen to music at work or for studying.