Tag Archives: Ryan Adams

Top 10 Albums of 2014

La Dispute

10. La Dispute, Rooms of the House

Emo may not be everyone’s genre of choice, but it’s hard to deny that La Dispute do it damn well. The songs on this interwoven album beautifully ruminate on personal loss and the ways that memories can linger. La Dispute brings intense, snarling vocals to their tales, but also surprisingly gorgeous melodies that made Rooms of the House accessible enough to please non-fans as well as emo devotees.

lykke li

9. Lykke Li, I Never Learn

Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li has been a favourite on the blogosphere for a while now and her latest album proves why. From the sparse piano intro of “No Rest for the Wicked” to lush tracks like “Heart of Steel”, Li has created a disarmingly sincere representation of heartbreak. This is an album that drips with sadness, but there’s also a comfort and strength in Li’s voice that draws you in.

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8. The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers

Canadian indie sweethearts The New Pornographers come out swinging with their latest collection, Brill Bruisers. The title track opens the album with a refreshing jolt and the rest of Brill Bruisers continues to show off the beautiful knack for melody these veteran songwriters possess. Indie rock is in flux right now with some bands threatening to homogenize their sound entirely, so it’s refreshing to see the New Pornographers staying staunchly true to their distinctive style while still managing to sound entirely modern.

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7. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

Sturgill Simpson’s latest concise collection crackles with energy that folk music can sometimes lack. This album has the authenticity and soul of traditional roots music but also a clear-voiced knack for melody that makes it feel thoroughly modern. Sturgill has a ferocious yowl that comes out on occasion (such as on the chorus of album highlight “It Ain’t All Flowers”) but for most of the album his voice is beautifully tender, crackling with life experience that most singer-songwriters could only hope to convey.

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6. TV on the Radio, Seeds

I’ve never been a huge fan of TV on the Radio. There was something in their past work that seemed a little too precisely hectic; their music seemed too passionless for all of the attention that it drew to itself. But that all changed with Seeds. Whether it’s the spiky rock of “Happy Idiot” or the cooler intricacies of songs like “Trouble”, the album is completely engaging. Seeds is easily the band’s most accessible outing yet, but they still hang on to their dynamic, somewhat experimental outlook throughout the album’s entirety. The results are wonderful.

spoon

5. Spoon, They Want My Soul

Nobody can deliver bouncy indie-rock gems like Brit Daniel. His distinctive yowl is in peak form on Spoon’s eighth studio album, The Want My Soul, but it’s not the only thing that the album has going for it. The piano pounds delightfully on “Let Me Be Mine”. “Do You” creates a sense of urgency and intensity that isn’t always present in Spoon’s music. Each track feels purposeful and distinct, yet they all tie together perfectly. Spoon can feel a bit clinical in their approach, but The Want My Soul is their loosest and liveliest album in a while.

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4. Ryan Adams, Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams is known mostly for penning heartfelt, tear-in-you-beer folk ballads. And there’s a little bit of that here. But mostly, his self-titled LP is full of melodic, bold rock songs with guitars that recall Bryan Adams (confusing, I know) and Tom Petty. It’s not Adams’ first foray into rock, but it might be his most fully-formed journey into the genre. “Gimme Something Good” and “Stay With Me” blister with rock swagger, while the moody “Kim” shows that Adams can still tug on the heart strings. Adams is an artist whose sprawling output can feel overwhelming, but this refreshingly concise album is one that anyone interested in his work should make time for.

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3. Rural Alberta Advantage, Mended With Gold

Of all the albums on this list, this is probably the one that I have the most trouble articulating my love for. To some, the Rural Alberta Advantage might seem like a fairly standard Canadian indie rock band. But thanks to the band’s unrelenting emphasis on percussion, lead singer Nils Edenloff’s distinctive warble, and the harmonies that subtly permeate every song, I’ve long admired RAA’s sound. And Mended With Gold was where everything really clicked into place for me. The songs sometimes grow from heartbreakingly intimate confessionals to walls of sound in the span of a few bars. There’s a straightforward, clear-eyed honesty in the vein of the Tragically Hip and a sprawling energy a la the Arcade Fire. Yet Rural Alberta Advantage remain unshakably true to their own vision.

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2. Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire For No Witness

I encountered Burn Your Fire For No Witness early in the year and it’s stuck with me since. Angel Olsen’s husky tenor doesn’t let you go easily. Her deceptively simple songs bring you back wanting more. I’m not sure if anything in 2014 was more tantalizing than Olsen’s lazy guitar strum of “Lights Out”. She’s Leonard Cohen, she’s Joni Mitchell, and she’s all of the heart that people complain is missing from music nowadays.

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1. Sharon Van Etten, Are We There

Sharon Van Etten has been writing stunning music for years now, so the fact that Are We There is her best album yet is quite a feat. But from the slow-burn build of album opener “Afraid of Nothing”, I knew I was in for something special. Elsewhere, we get the emotional exorcism of “Your Love Is Killing Me” (which is easily my favourite song of the year) and the gorgeously halting exhale of “Every Time the Sun Comes Up”. Confessional singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen, but very, very few of them can ever turn a phrase and lay themselves bare the way Van Etten always manages to.

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Ryan Adams @ Massey Hall, Toronto (12/11/14)

Ryanb Adams

Ryan Adams was in full-on Ryan Adams Mode at last night’s Toronto concert. His nearly two-hour set – and his stage banter between songs – was cantankerous, scruffy, and funny all at once. With a career-spanning setlist and a solid band backing him up, it was a show bound to please any fan, but also one that seemed to highlight Adams’ own frustrations.

At his more petulant moments, Adams casually eviscerated a heckler (though not before declaring that they were “best friends again” moments later) and was clearly a bit exasperated with the results of the audience “vote” to decide the concert’s final song, which inevitably fell in favour of “Come Pick Me Up”. (Massey Hall has a strict 11 p.m. curfew, so Adams had to cut things a little short.) However, his somewhat cranky persona is what fans have come to expect and, if not wholeheartedly love, at least accept in exchange for great music. (And, to be fair, Adams is arguably much harsher on himself than any drunken goon in the audience. “Here’s another song about my feelings,” Adams deadpanned at one point.)

With the full band backing him, Adams’ heavier material really shone. The few songs that he played from his recent self-titled album were among the night’s highlights, especially the swirling “Stay With Me”. He also dipped into 1984, his punk-y EP from earlier this year, to tear through through “Rats in the Wall” and “When the Summer Ends” with a crackling urgency that’s difficult to capture on recording. Earlier cuts like “This House is Not For Sale” and “Do I Wait” also felt propulsive and fresh in the “rock show” setting.

His mid-tempo material generally didn’t come across as dynamically and “Dear Chicago”, one of his most searing songs, felt surprisingly watered-down with a full band. However, it was undeniably exciting to hear “When the Stars Go Blue” live. Adams mixed up the ballad’s arrangement just enough while still staying true to the song’s original lovely (and, admittedly, slightly hokey) sentiment.

A real highlight of the show was the debut of a new song, “Do You Laugh When You Lie?” It’s part of his just-announced 7” and based on the live rendition, it feels very much in line with Adams’ latest LP down to the hooky guitars and anthemic chorus. Despite his fears of messing it up live, the song sounded great and offered a strong indication that the ever-prolific Adams still has a ton of exciting music in him.

Musically, Adams was in top form last night. And while the vibe of the show was more laborious than the last time I saw him live – in 2011, when he played a loose and spontaneous solo acoustic show and seemed to be in a more laidback mood – it still had the snarling energy that is key to Adams’ music. As fans we come for the Puddle of Mudd anecdotes, the life-sized stuffed tiger that adorned the stage, and, most importantly, a night of great music. And on all of these fronts (and many more), Adams certainly didn’t disappoint.

Songs of the Week: July 6, 2014

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Each week, Faint Uproar offers up our picks for the five best newly released songs. Stream them and read our commentary below:

Ryan Adams – “Gimme Something Good”

So this was one of those rare and wonderful weeks where a bunch of musicians I really like all released new material. Among them is Ryan Adams, who also announced the upcoming release of his 14th studio album (out September 9). “Gimme Something Good” will kick off the album, and it suggests a return to Adams’ plugged-in, more rock-influenced sound. From the opening notes, it sounds an awful lot like Tom Petty, but that’s certainly not a bad fit for Adams. Here, he proves that he’s still more than capable of writing one hell of a catchy hook.


Spoon – “Do You”

Speaking of catchy, Spoon hasn’t sounded this good since their excellent, poppy 2007 album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. “Do You” is lively and fun, showing us that Brit Daniel’s signature yowl and the band’s songwriting chops are both still in fine form. We’ll get to see the full force of that soon, when they release their new album, They Want My Soul, on August 5. In the meantime, “Do You” feels like a perfect summer entry, inviting listeners to shimmy along while still packing a wallop.


Bon Iver – “Heavenly Father”

Justin Vernon is a perpetually busy guy, but this is the first new material we’ve heard under the title of his Bon Iver project since 2011. “Heavenly Father” is on the soundtrack for Zach Braff’s new movie, Wish I Was Here, and if nothing else, Braff is assembling some pretty fantastic music for his flick. “Heavenly Father” finds Vernon singing in a lower octave and a fuller voice than usual, which in my opinion is his sweet spot. Vernon rarely disappoints, and hopefully this is a hint that more Bon Iver material is just around the corner.


Titus Andronicus – “Stranded (On My Own)”

Patrick Stickles spoke openly about his personal struggles when he appeared on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast earlier in the year, and while it made for compelling listening, it also suggested that the future of Titus Andronicus was somewhat up in the air. Now, Stickles seems to be making steps to return to what he does so well, and “Stranded (On My Own)” is just as gritty, searing, and inviting as anything off Titus Andronicus’ phenomenal 2010 album, The Monitor.


Foxes In Fiction – “Shadow’s Song” (Feat. Owen Pallett)

Foxes in Fiction might be the least familiar name on this list to many, but by this point, Owen Pallett (who contributes some lovely, swooning strings on the track) has built quite the name for himself in the indie world. It’s a beautifully sombre collaboration, suggesting great things from Foxes in Fiction’s new album, Ontario Gothic (love the name), which will be out on September 23.