Review Summary: In conclusion Whiskeytown’s “Strangers Almanac” is more critically acclaimed than the average Adams solo album because: the band gives a unique feel to each song and brings every song to life, and because of this the songs are of higher quality. Th
Ryan Adams is a strange musician. While most musicians of his popularity obsess over every nuance to every song until it is perfect, Adams prefers quantity over quality. This makes Adams a very interesting musician to critics: when he puts out two very good records out of three in 2005 he is considered a pop genius that produced something not a lot musicians could not manufacture, but when he takes his time and puts out solid records he is considered an average “adult alternative country” musician. The records “Easy Tiger” and “Cardinology” are examples of this. This makes his work with Whiskeytown especially interesting to me because Adams and his band mates took time to produce all three of their records, yet they are all still critically acclaimed. What makes Adams more than an average pop artist with Whiskeytown? What sets this particular work apart from his solo work? When I was listening to “Strangers Almanac” this is what I wanted to find out.
I think one of the major differences is the variety of music you get here. On “Easy Tiger” just about every song is a three-minute ballad about a relationship and it makes the album sort of lose its luster. What “Strangers Almanac” does well is present every side of Adams music to the public. The first song, “Inn Town, is a 6 minute sort of folky song about arriving at a destination with a slow guitar solo leading into a breakdown with duel vocals from a male and female vocalist. There are not many times Adams has been able to pull off this quality of a five minute plus song as a solo artist without it being killed by too many guitar solos or not enough vocal variety. “Inn Town”, is great because Adams and his band prove that they can pull off a six-minute song to start an album and it shows many sides of Adams as a vocalist. This is followed by “Excuse Me If I Break My Own Heart” which has a very country feel but this actually ends up being a great song. What separates this song from a normally country song is: how lyrically complicated it is, as the song seems to be about an emotional breakup that Adams went through, the use of many different instruments to compliment Adams desperate vocals, and the use of a guest vocalist during the breakdown of the song kind of gives the song a unique feel. “Everything I Do”, is the best song Adams has ever done. The lyrics are beautiful as they perfectly describe the life of a young girl. While Adams ballads as a solo artist would stay at the same soft tempo throughout the whole song, this song seems to be sort of a “country grunge” song, as the soft repeated verses lead into a louder chorus. The chorus is the best part of the song as the riff repeated in the verses is played much louder and faster to give the song a song a country and jazz feel to it. “Losering” is probably the most experimental song Adams has ever done. While most of Adams songs are driven by his lyrics and storytelling, this song is driven by instrumentation and sounds of like a grunge hit, a country hit, and a Third Eye Blind song at the same time. Adams repeats “Losering” the whole time in a consistent angst ridden voice while the instruments in the background go completely crazy. It isn’t the best song on the album, but it is a side of Adams music that is rarely found on his solo work.
Another difference between “Strangers Almanac” and the average Adams solo album is the quality of songwriting and the quality of the songs overall. Adams has only occasionally produced a better soft song than “Houses On The Hill”. This is a song where Adams keep the tempo of the song down, yet the song remains very catchy and is a worthwhile listen. “Somebody Remembers The Rose” is another soft and short song that accomplishes the same things “Houses On The Hill” does, and it is something the three minute ballads on “Easy Tiger” or the drawn out long songs on “Cold Roses” could not accomplish. “16 Days” is another song that can be put up with the best that Adams has written. The songwriting here is very good and doesn’t try to hard like on some of Adams solo work, the instrumentation is varied, and the song is still very catchy. It seems Adams is better with a band rather than just being a solo artist because he can really bring his songs to life with different instruments and talented backing vocalist.
In conclusion Whiskeytown’s “Strangers Almanac” is more critically acclaimed than the average Adams solo album because: the band gives a unique feel to each song and brings every song to life, and because of this the songs are of higher quality. This album reminds me of “Gold” because it goes through many genres of music and it still has very high quality songs. These are the type of albums Adams can take his time and make and still be critically acclaimed. I still expect his next album to be all three minute ballads titled “Mandy”.
Band brings out every songs true identity
Different instruments used to bring songs to life.
Very talented background vocalists are used on many songs.
The overall quality of the individual songs
Album sort of drags on
Adams doesn’t use enough of his singing range.
Adams doesn’t use the talent of his band members enough.
Individual Song Ratings:
1. Inn Town 4.2/5
2. Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight 5/5
3. Yesterday’s News 4.3/5
4. 16 Days 5/5
5. Everything I Do 5/5
6. House On The Hill 4.8/5
7. Turn Around 3.3/5
8. Dancing With The Women At The Bar 3.4/5
9. Waiting To Derail 3.7/5
10. Avenues 4/5
11. Losering 4.6/5
12. Somebody Remembers The Rose 3.8/5
13. Not Home Anymore 3.6/5