Ryan Adams
Big Colors


3.0
good

Review

by Sunnyvale CONTRIBUTOR (36 Reviews)
June 12th, 2021 | 19 replies


Release Date: 06/11/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It’s a Ryan Adams album, for better or worse

Ryan Adams certainly ranks as one of the more ubiquitous singer-songwriters of our times. From his roots as the frontman of the iconic 90s alt-country band Whiskeytown, Adams went on to a fairly acclaimed solo career. He’s been notorious for his incessant release schedule, frequently putting out multiple albums in a year, with widely varying styles and quality levels. His prodigious career took a nosedive in 2019, when a MeToo controversy engulfed him with numerous women (including his ex-wife Mandy Moore along with rising star Phoebe Bridgers) accusing him of various abusive and manipulative sexual practices. The fallout of this scandal saw Adams retreat from the public eye, and additionally delay the release of (both) of his albums which were scheduled for public consumption in 2019. Big Colors is the second of those records to see the light of day, following the release of Wednesdays in late 2020.

While Wednesdays saw Adams’ country/folk tendencies predominate, Big Colors is described by the songwriter as “a 1980s soundtrack to a movie that never existed”. Whether the final results live up to this billing is debatable, but the release certainly follows in the vein of several of Adams’ more recent albums, notably Ryan Adams and Prisoner , with their heavy influences of the 80s heartland rock vibes of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. That said, Big Colors has a bit more sonic variation than either of those LPs, although this experimentation is not always successful.

The bulk of Big Colors is mid-tempo mellow rock tunes, with the tone set by the opening title track. These tunes are pleasant without fail, given that Adams’ is a great singer and has always had a good ear for melody, but only a few of them stand out as anything more than good. “Manchester”, with its power-pop cycled through Americana sound, and the emotive closer “Summer Rain” are clear highlights. “Do Not Disturb”, with its almost dancy beat, is also pretty strong, and feels like a curio which stands out as distinctive within Adams’ extensive catalog.

There’s the good, now for the bad and the ugly: wherever you sit on the “separating art from the artist” debate, something has to be said about a few of the songwriting decisions on this album, which are likely to elicit cringes from most listeners. Given the nature of the allegations against Adams, entitling a song “Power” seems ill-advised, but this is compounded by the sexualized nature of the lyrics. Beyond that, the tune’s hard rock tendencies are wildly out of place in the middle of the tracklist, with no other songs coming near to its direction. Elsewhere, “In It For The Pleasure”, with its mopey lyrical vibe, doesn’t sit right given the album’s context. While its “tortured rock star” themes are far from unique in Adams’ discography, this reviewer’s tolerance for this sort of “poor, poor me” lyricism has declined greatly given Adams’ noted mistreatment of others, and getting through this song without a wince is certainly a chore.

All told, Big Colors is a substantially flawed release which won’t stand as a highlight of Adams’ body of work. That said, this is still a good album which illustrates the singer-songwriter’s enduring strengths as a musician. While most of these songs aren’t particular highlights, Ryan Adams just has a knack for writing solid tunes which hit even harder under the right listening circumstances. Minus a few duds, this is a thoroughly listenable album with solid replay value.



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user ratings (11)
2.7
average


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
June 12th 2021


2564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Mileage on this album will probably vary, if you like Ryan Adams' music generally, you'll probably like it, if not, I'd stay away.

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
June 12th 2021


3174 Comments


great rev as always sunny! can't say i've ever enjoyed the dude's music all that much (tho i've heard maybe like 2 or 3 albums) so i won't be checking diz

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
June 12th 2021


2564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks Jesper! Very reasonable response

klap
Staff Reviewer
June 12th 2021


12367 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

ignoring all the very fucked up shit he's done to other people, his music has basically settled into this generic mid-tempo Americana/alt-country/rock shit for the past several years which is fine, whatever, every one is roughly as good as the other but the sell-by date is just way past. missed when he actually gave a shit rather than succumbing to musical middle age

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
June 12th 2021


2564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@klap, pretty much agree with everything you said, I enjoy his latest stuff for what it is but there hasn't been a ton of inspiration of late.

theBoneyKing
June 12th 2021


20682 Comments


Yeah… Basically I decided that with all the crap he’s done I have no reason to listen to anything new he releases and I’m fine sticking with all the stuff I already know by him.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
June 12th 2021


2564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Boney, that's reasonable enough. He's high up enough in my hierarchy of favorite artists that I always feel like checking his new releases, but don't think I'd ever see him live or anything at this point.

bigguytoo9
June 13th 2021


1095 Comments


I own a few cd's from Ryan I bought years ago.

garas
Contributing Reviewer
June 13th 2021


6230 Comments


It looks like my cat, haha.

Digging: Oublieth - l'Ombre du Royaume en Cendres

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
June 13th 2021


2564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice, Garas! Can't figure out if I like the cover or not, certainly distinctive though.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
June 14th 2021


24835 Comments


Actually the cover is different from the one I got for the weekly news post hmmm...

All I've heard of this cat is whatever was on the news, but never his music, and after reading your rev defo gonna give it a pass. Nicely done though Sunny.

Digging: Nightwish - Wishmaster

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
June 14th 2021


2564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Cheers Dewinged, he has a lot of good music but this definitely isn't a recommended entry point if you ever feel like checking it out.

letsgofishing
June 14th 2021


1540 Comments


Not only is he an insufferable asshole of epic proportions, he’ll never write anything as good as Summer of ‘69 again!


cageofman
June 15th 2021


172 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well i really like it, think it has some great tunes and moods. I like the 80's laden sounds, quite Lush to my ears. Title track, Manchester, I Surrender, Showtime, Summer Rain all really good for me.

instantradical
June 18th 2021


337 Comments


I'm with cageofman, when Adams is channeling the Tom-Petty-meets-The-Smiths vibe of the self-title, 1989, and Prisoner is when I'm most excited about him. Summer Rain is definitely one of my favorite songs of the year thus far. But the album is inconsistent and not as good as the self titled or Prisoner. You could make a killer album out of the best tracks from these three albums.

"Power" is terrible, it sounds like he thought, "I'm going to remake 'I just might,' but make it a crappy blues rocker instead."

Slex
June 18th 2021


11826 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Can't possibly imagine liking such a lackluster artist after all the Gross Stuff but I will solemnly jam Come Pick Me Up every couple years

Digging: Midwife (USA) - Luminol

klap
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2021


12367 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

thats not even the best song off heartbreaker u pleb

theBoneyKing
June 19th 2021


20682 Comments


Heartbreaker is a classic 4ever. “Come Pick Me Up” is second only to “Oh My Sweet Carolina”.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
June 19th 2021


2564 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Honestly think I prefer Gold over Heartbreaker, but both are great



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