Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cardinology

Rating: ★★ · · ·

Dear Ryan Adams,

Back in the day you put together an amazing album Heartbreaker. In all honesty, that record is going to be remembered for years to come; it really is that good. But, now you come back at your fans with Cardinology!

First off, what on earth is going on with the album artwork? Is this one of the remaining pieces of the set from Roadhouse? Maybe that’s where you found the sound for this album. Perhaps it’s your attempt at establishing yourself as the artist formerly known as Ryan Adams, which would be understandable, as you bare no resemblance to the man who stepped out of the shadows of Whiskeytown.

This new record, Cardinology, well, it just doesn’t make any sense at all. Sure, many of those will remember some of the scattered breakthrough moments you shared with your old band, but your best efforts always seem to come from areas when you step aside from the full on band approach. Here, we find you overshadowed by the entire band, and often, you don’t even sound like yourself anymore.

For the most part, the opening to this album sounds like you wanted to take a pop approach to writing country songs, but you end up sounding like the Gin Blossoms or Third Eye Blind covering Americana songs. It feels overly contrived, as if you lost that magical touch that drew so many people to you in the first place. Listening to this album makes you seems as if you drifted further away from yourself; we were all sad to see you go.

As listeners, we appreciate some of the strong songs that do make their way through, such as “Let Us Down Easy” or “Crossed Out Name.” Each of those seems to exist in that distant place where you lived for so long, yet rarely visit these days. It has so much personality in the song, especially lyrically. You could go so far as to say that “Evergreen” can also be lumped in with the same batch of songs; they are all personal, making them more personal for the audience listening to your records.

Then again, as you make headway, you add a song like “Stop.” If anyone decided to rip off Neil Young playing the piano, it had to be you. There is no passion here, and the lyrics seem so ridiculous. Did you really write “you are not alone,” and throw it into a song? Way to be original. You know what would be original? A Ryan Adams record without the Cardinals that broke our hearts; a record that made us believe; a record we all really need.

David Vandervelde – Waiting for the Sunrise

Rating: ★★★½ ·

In early 2007, David Vandervelde droppped out of music sky, rocking me like the only the bastard son of Marc Bolan could.  For me, his first record, Moonstation House Band, was just a revamped T Rex–and for its part, I loved it.  I mean can really tire of T Rex?

This time around David Vandervelde is still stuck in that classic rock sound, but this one comes off far away from the likes Marc Bolan.  It’s much more subdued, and gone are the chunky guitar riffs that made the last albm so outstanding.

Here we find David hopelessly devoted to the largely acoustic stylings of folk rock.  Sure, his voice still holds a little bit of that T. Rex pitch, but musically, he’s chasing the like of Neil Young or The Band.  Despite his continuous homage to his influences without taking on a new approach, he still manages to write some incredible songs.

“Someone Like You” is quite possibly the best song he has ever written.  Lyrically it throws a look into the life of a struggling musician, one who is trying to cope with his rock n’ roll status, fueled by drugs and excess. Of course, said person dies.  It’s a little cliche, but the melodies in this song are simply ridiculous. This song can be played all day long.  Similarly, “I Will be Fine” is another great song, and an appropriate beginning to the album.  It’s a simple song, but one that sets the tone for the work that is being done on this album.   Lyrically, its lacking, but what are you going to do?

I’m not going to lie; I love this guy’s voice.  He has quite a range, and it does justice to every single song he writes.  He accompanies each melody and harmony the way one can only dream of, but lacking is his writing, lyrics, that is.  They appear really simple, and come off a bit cliched. The last album focused more on the sound of the band, as where this one is more sparse, so it opens you up to listening more to the lyrics–and clearly they lack much to be desired.

Overall, this is a good album, just not one that is going to show David Vandervelde breaking new ground.  If you love clean classic rock sounds, this one’s for you kids.  Excuse me while I go listen to “Someone Like You” for the eleventh time today.

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