Ryan Adams & Pinnacle Moments of My Life

Heartbreaker. Despite being Ryan’s Bloodshot solo debut and quite an old record (I think I was in junior high when it was originally released), it was the last Ryan Adams record I obtained. And it always makes me think of the summer after my first year – I ordered it from Amazon and it came in the mail… it was the first time I had ever heard ‘Shakedown on 9th Street’ and the first time I ever experienced what country could do to one’s heart if it was done up properly. That summer dragged on and on; there was a lot of rain and a lot of boredom and a lot of youthful frustration while waiting for the future, waiting to move back to the city, waiting to find out what my second year would hold (and eventually found that nothing really amazing came of my life in the coming year). I could relate to the anxiety and somber straining that happens on this record, as well as the child-like lost love depicted in “Call Me On Your Way Back Home”; I found find this much more prevalent later, but my introduction to this record took place during a time when I needed it most crucially.

Gold. This record is associated forever with summer and all the things that go along with it, both good and pleasant and fun, as well as pensive and beautiful. Even the sad songs on this record like “Nobody Girl” and “La Cienega Just Smiled” evoke in me dark blue sunsets and late-night drives into the city. There’s something innately ‘southern’ about this record; it gives off vibes of willow trees and flat lands, despite its cosmopolitan guest stars and slick production and of course, “New York, New York”. I picked Gold up at the tail-end of my first year of university and rode a city bus home while listening to it on my disc man; still, it is one of my favourite Ryan Adams records; little filler and little faults, it is the perfect sunshine record and the ideal record for hot weather and long evenings and Sunday mornings and frozen hot chocolates. The audaciousness with which Ryan sings a song like “Tina Toledo’s Street Walking Blues” is so cowboy-punk-rebel with just a salt and pepper of humour and humility. This record WAS my first springtime in Edmonton and all the goodness and laziness that came from unseasonable warmth and the finale of one of my best years ever.

Demolition. As a whole, I’m sure I’ve never been as captivated by Demolition as other people have been, and I’m sure that the most I could glean of significance to my life from this record is either the agony that is “She Wants to Play Hearts” (which I don’t talk about), or “Dear Chicago” which, although painful, for some reason always just makes me feel warm and happy on the inside, not because it’s necessarily a happy feeling but because that song is just so raw and real to me that I feel it, in the same way I feel a good book or a good story…

Love is Hell. I’ve referred to Love is Hell a LOT in my blog; and in my journal and in my everyday conversation and in my daily life; I have had at-length internal conversations with myself about this record, about how it is even humanly possible to produce a work of such artistic merit that even just listening to it is like a wilting soul. Though not specifically designed as a concept album I have always looked at it as such; it speaks to me of a lonely genius who is reflecting upon his lost human connections and how they failed him until ultimately he is alone in a hotel and there is nothing left. And there is something gut-wrenching about a storyline like that. It is sort of a neo-version of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. Enough about my thoughts on the record though; it is a winter record. It is a record that means to me, snow and ice and walking to the grocery store on a dark white evening listening to Wonderwall and thinking about pitfalls and miseries of all degrees, all while enjoying a hot drink, or a cold one, and dreaming away. It is another first-year record for me but only later did it become an officially sacred document that will be indelibly tattooed on my life, a reminder of all that is sad and sacred and wonderful for those very reasons.

Rock n’ Roll. Just listening to “Wish You Were Here” reminds me of that: wishing my 6 Mac friends were in the same place I was, wishing that I could be having fun with them, enjoying my life as a city girl and waiting to go back to that… that rainy summer… “it’s raining like hell on the cars”… that summed it all up for me. “Drugs Not Working” is…well… not ‘relatable’ to me necessarily, but it certainly speaks to me regarding that wasted time and youth that is so prevalent in summer months, even as of late. I also always loved the sexy, gritty “Shallow” and I kind of put it on as a going-out song, to get revved up for a drunk evening… while this record isn’t the same emotionally significant record, I draw from it summer memories that are forever associated with the lyrics and vibe put forth by this album.

Cold Roses. The first time I heard this record, I was actually shopping for music and the record was playing in the store; I was with my friend Erin and I wandered away, over to the speaker where I could best hear the album and at that moment, I was BLOWN away. It came out two weeks later, while I lived in Jasper, and I ended up buying it at this puny store in Hinton for some outlandish price… $25 or something. And from that moment on, this summer was forever filled with that same rugged southern feel of ‘Gold’, only more simpering and sweet and with more pedal-steel.

Jacksonville City Nights. There is such a thing as cool sunny days in autumn and that’s what this record is. It is the logical sequel to Cold Roses’ summertime jams; crisper, more clear-headed, more produced and defined, more direct, and shorter (haha). It has a lot of that back-to-school dutifulness, but in a record. When I got this record, I was just settling into Lister for a second time (ugh… agony) and I was on my last lags of my discman. This was one of the last CDs I bought and listened to exclusively in its original format. I skipped class actually, just to buy this record. I took the train downtown, which later on became a habitual quick getaway from being on-campus. I got the record and an Orange Julius, and I headed back to reality… of my floor and my classes, and into the sun, which was orange, yellow and gold against the changing leaves.

29. The last of the 2006 trilogy brings me to the winter of my second-year… the days before I ever even thought I’d ever see Ryan Adams life and in person, before kisses and before life got serious. Or rather, ACTUALLY serious… this record is, I think fairly underrated for a Ryan Adams record… it is a collaboration with Ethan Johns first of all, and in nine songs, seems to sum up someone’s lost youth further, and in way that has never been done by Adams before… it came out just at Christmas time when I was with my family and the days were short and freezing and white and dim and dark and blue and infused with wine and time and that Christmas, I got a digital camera and snapped pictures of my life and didn’t know it then, but would soon, come winter discover that everything would change with a boy, with writing, with living, with jobs, and with myself…

Easy Tiger. Oh, 2007… of all the Ryan Adams records, this one probably is most associated with memories of my life… the listening party with Rychy, the anticipation of the show in Vancouver, of Freestyle sundaes, Harry Potter, Rancho Manor, and my first job as a writer. I listened to this record allllllllllllllllllllllllll the time. I’m impressed it still plays. And then I went and saw Ryan Adams in person shortly thereafter and I was just enamoured with everything that was good, sunny and brilliant about life. This was the summer of summers, the summer in which I was itching for fun prior, and wondered afterwards just HOW everything was so Goddamn good by the end? All of my mainstays in my life now – friends, music, favourite movies, interests, hobbies and works of significance… were solidified by this point in time, and accompanied with this record…

Cardinology. …And then it all came crashing down. Between the release of Easy Tiger and the release of Cardinology, VERY significant things happened: I moved from my first-ever ‘actual’ apartment back to residence, which was a social disaster… love came and cruelly went for many people in my life, not just myself… I was miserable at home, stressed at school, and the winter was so cold and so brittle I could almost crack it with my hands. The summer of 2008 was MISERABLE; it was a disaster of all proportions, a wasteland of poverty, too many hours to think, too many books to read, too many foods to eat, and too many jealousies to keep track of. It was the worst summer of my life and by its end, I felt like I had been through multiple tornadoes. And just as that was clearing up, I went back to school with a renewed perspective and a vow: to never take life for granted again, to not allow myself to be damaged like that again… and in what was a slow two-year rebuilding process, what happened next was amazing. But before all that, there was Cardinology. And there were comforting lines like “you make me feel like I’m here when I’m not… but I am; I am… more than you think I am”. And there was a song about rehab and addiction, and a song about hearing someone laughing running up the rickedy stairs, and a song about magick… and though it is possibly the weakest Ryan Adams album to date, it came along at a time when everything was on the verge of collapse and at that moment, songs like “Sink Ships” were exactly what I needed. I owed Ryan once again, for coming along and saving me just when I needed to be saved.

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