By: Derek Jung
The last two years have seen Ryan Adams' life turned upside down. In 2015 he received high praise for his imaginative reinventing of Taylor Swift's pop music classic 1989 on a cover album bearing the same name. At the same time, his marriage with singer/actress Mandy Moore was deteriorating, and the couple officially divorced in June 2016. With all of that as the backdrop to writing Prisoner, it's no surprise that the album is filled to the brim with heartbreak, depression, and despair. You only needs to look at the song titles to understand what listening to the album is going to be like. Lead single "Do You Still Love Me?", one of my favorite songs of 2016, is a 1980's Bruce Springsteen arena rock sounding classic. Churning guitars and haunting melodic keys compliment Adams as he repeats one of the most painful questions you can ask in a dying relationship.
The rest of the album, however, is much more singer/songwriter focused. Adams channels the songwriting style of Neil Young after being locked in a dark room for months. It's self-reflective, but the album is relatable if you've ever had a past relationship fall apart. Adams' vocals echo against the very fabric of your soul, projecting the honesty, the vulnerability, and the fragility of his state of mind. It's chilling.
At 42 minutes in length, the album never feels like it drags on for too long, and there is little, if any, filler to be found. On "Doomsday" Adams professes that he "could wait a thousand years", and while we don't have nearly that long to ponder on the album, it feels like just long enough to properly grieve.
I wish I could say the end of the album brings some hope or closure, but that's really not the case. This album is a bleak listen, and understandably so given the topic. But that's ok - sometimes you just have to cry it out.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.