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Saturday, January 28, 2006

My Life On CD

We’ve all heard stories from our parents about albums that changed their lives, whether it was Sgt. Pepper’s, Dark Side of the Moon, Blood on the Tracks or some other legendary record. We sometimes discover the greatness ourselves, either by listening to the music w/ our parents or stumbling across the album long after we’ve slipped into adulthood.

Even though I can’t even fathom being married, let alone having kids, several albums stand out as those I’ll pass on to my children, albums linked to a point in my life that have created an inseparable bond between time and music. I discovered one such album last month when I got my hands on Ryan Adams’ 29. The night before its release, I wrote about my excitement right here on the greatest blog ever created by Elon alumni. Now that I’ve had a month to listen to the nine songs over and over again, it’s clear my anticipation was well-founded.

Having only discovered Ryan Adams a couple years ago, he was a two-face to me before May: Some albums were great (Heartbreaker, Love is Hell) while others were a mush of effort and circles (Demolition). His first two releases in 2005, however (Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights), were extremely impressive, which left me giddy for his third and final album of the year. His country swagger found on JCN and his Dead echoes from Cold Roses can both be found on 29, along w/ his folksy sounds from the early days. The eclecticism of 29 makes it a perfect story for us twentysomethings as we struggle to discover our purpose in life, if such a thing exists.

I judge songs on how well I can relate to the lyrics, and how many times I hear a note that makes me stop what I’m doing. The aforementioned are plentiful on this album, beginning w/ the title track and ending w/ the last lines of Voices, as Adams sings falsetto, “Run away from the light, little ones.” The transitions from song to song are striking. The first song, 29, is a blatant tribute to the Dead, and details Adams’ struggles while being "a poor little kid in the lungs of New York.” Strawberry Wine is a smooth eight-minute tale of intertwined lives grappling suicide and prison and wine, urging the listener to “break out of it” before it’s too late. Nightbirds summons the sounds of ‘70s folk, a ditty that complicates at the end, as if everything comes crashing down upon the song, the singer, everything.

The middle of the album is less catchy, but more rewarding once its elegance is discovered. The water themes continue w/ Blue Sky Blues and Carolina Rain before giving way to Starlite Diner, disguised as a simple daydream while awaiting a woman, laments about dead love buried beneath the obvious.

The Sadness
sounds more like the Zorro soundtrack than anything Adams has released, but its heavy images of death and depression are evident on many levels. Schools of thought conflict on Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part. Some say it’s a sad letter to a former love, while others claim it was written for a baby never born, victim of a miscarriage. Then again, it could be both as Adams’ vagueness adds strength to his songs. The album ends w/ Voices, littered w/ biblical references and serving as a warning to anyone that life is hard, and sometimes death seems like a better alternative.

Whether or not you like Ryan Adams, I urge you to try this album on. In fact, try it on several times, listen to it straight through, listen to it on random, listen to it in the car, listen to it in your room. Whether you like it at first listen or after 100 listens, the bottom line is you will like it. It may even grab a shovel and dig a hole in your life, buried for your children to unearth.


At 1:43 AM, Blogger Balto17 said...

While I can't say I dig Ryan Adams, I can relate to your overall admiration for an artist and an album. Truly, music is inspirational and important, so I appreciate your sentiments. It has inspired me to post an entry on my blog in a similar -- although not as emotionally resounding -- manner. I'm going to write an album review of the album Black Star by the duo Black Star, which combines the talents of Mos Def and Talib Kweli. The record came out in 1998, so I'm a bit late, but I thought I'd do it anyway.


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