Review Summary: Ryan Adams decides to release a solid, cohesive and ultimately consistent record for a change.
Although he's only been releasing albums as a solo artist since the beginning of the decade, Ryan Adams
has managed to become the posterboy for the alt country movement, as well as one of the most talked-about solo artists in music. His most devoted fans say that he's one of the most prolific artists of all time (Adams has now released 9 official albums, as well as 18 unofficial ones on his website, not to mention the ones he hasn't even released) while his critics and detractors say that he has no concept of quality control and simply releases everything he writes. The truth is probably buried somewhere in the middle of those two extremes and with each subsequent release, it's hard to decide whether Adams is some sort of genius or just a complete wanker (or both).
The last officially released material from Adams was in 2005 in the form of a trilogy; the varied and generally consistent double album Cold Roses
, the late-night country of Jacksonville City Nights
and the aptly titled 29
(which was recorded as Adams' farewell to his twenties). While each album definitely had its strengths, the general consensus from both fans and critics was that if Adams would slow down, release less and compile all his best songs onto one or two albums, he might be capable of releasing something truly superb. 2006 saw Adams go completely insane, releasing 18 albums of material on his website, each one under various silly aliases (such as The Shit
and DJ Reggie) with equally silly titles (such as Feel the Laser
, This is Shit
, Holy Shit!
and Snapz the Clown
). As crazy as releasing 18 albums in one year is, Adams clearly understood the ridiculous nature of such an act and used titles to aptly reflect it.
Which brings us to Easy Tiger
, Adams' first official release since 2005. Its title, given his history (as well as his recent admission of an out-of-control drug/alcohol habit), seems to be self-directed. Certainly, Adams has
seemingly slowed down, resulting in Easy Tiger
being his most consistent release since Heartbreaker
. It's also a little predictable, containing elements from each of its eight predecessors and as a whole, feeling like a summary of his career. But that's of little concern if the album has the songs to back it up and Easy Tiger
certainly does. The majority of the album does have a decidedly country feel throughout, but Adams does take a few breaks, such as the catchy arena rock of "Halloween Head", in which Adams lazily and in a seemingly tongue-in-cheek manner, announces "guitar solo!" halfway in.
The success of Easy Tiger
lies in its conciseness; nothing exceeds standard pop song length and each cut gets straight to the point. Arguably the album's other strongest element is its constant shifts in style. Though the album is simply billed as a Ryan Adams record, his backing band The Cardinals are very present for the album's 13 cuts which allows Adams to effortlessly switch styles, from the electric country rock of opener "Goodnight Rose" to the soft balladry of single "Two" (a duet with Sheryl Crow
) to the 80s rock of the aforementioned "Halloween Head" to the banjo-led folk of "Pearls on a String". Adams' voice consistently shifts along with the rest of the music, making for an extremely pleasant and varied ride through the many different points of his career.
Picking highlights in such a consistent record is a difficult task indeed, and when that sort of consistency is coming from Adams of all people, it speaks volumes about the quality of this release. Easy Tiger
may be signalling a slowing down of sorts for Adams, both in terms of releases and lifestyle, but if records like this one are its result, the change is very welcome. In any case, Easy Tiger
is at least Adams' best release since Love is Hell
and it may even be the long awaited successor to Heartbreaker
. For the uninitiated, this would be a perfect starting point and for anyone else, Easy Tiger
is an extremely worthwhile purchase, probably even an essential one.
Great shifts in style
Adams' voice is the best it's ever been
Some of the different styles probably won't suit everyone
Pearls on a String
Final Rating: 4/5