RYAN ADAMS: 1989

September 22nd, 2015 | Album reviews

Ryan Adams
1989
PaxAmericana

Ryan Adams’ new album is a study in songwriting and understanding. In a career of risks and experiments, here he’s taking aim at Taylor Swift’s massively successful 1989, breaking down the already beloved (and award-winning) album and recreating it in a way that not only sounds but feels like a Ryan Adams record. His take on “Welcome to New York” kicks off like an angry Springsteen jam, which he quickly follows with “Blank Space,” originally a gargantuan dance single redone here as a Neil Young-esque folk tune, thoughtful and drenched in heartache. Adams, who Swift has referenced as a personal songwriting hero, destroys the conception of a pop song on the next track, “Style” where the original sound of massive keyboards is traded for loud guitars and angry Sonic Youth references. (The lyric “James Dean day dream” is swapped for “daydream nation,” an obvious nod to the Sonic Youth album). The album hits its most heartfelt and dynamic moments towards the middle, where Adams takes on some of the most emotive moments of Swift’s original with “All You Had to do Was Stay,” a new wave-y bass-driven song about regret that he turns into a gut-wrenching song about loss and anger. Adams is always at his best with strong melodies and heart-warming and honest lyrics, which is what fans loved most about his Love is Hell, Demolition and Heartbreaker. The beautiful thing here is that he’s already been given both. His only job—and one he’s always done well—is to create sonics that match. Here he’s heart broken, nerdy, obsessive and a master of his craft.

—Daniel Sweetland