No matter what you’re doing, indie-rocker Ryan Adams’ new album “Prisoner” is the perfect soundtrack to play on your phone. Adams is back with an 80’s rock feel to give his listeners a taste of what they’ve been missing.
On Feb. 17, Adams debuted his 16th album, his first since his cover of Taylor Swift’s “1989” in its entirety two years ago. While he said on Twitter that “Prisoner” is about hope and forgiveness, he also confirmed in multiple interviews that the album took shape after his divorce with actress Mandy Moore in 2015. “Prisoner” is a heartbreak album, and Adams proves once again why he’s the master of heartbreak.
Not a newbie to the breakup album, Adams’ debut solo album, “Heartbreaker,” and 2004 album “Love Is Hell,” were masterful relationship angst albums. While nothing on “Prisoner” lives up to its predecessors, it does prove to be a solid rock album.
The opening song, “Do You Still Love Me?” sets the tone for rest of the album. The power ballads strongly resemble a 80’s rock song, and this song is one of many on the album that sound Bruce Springsteen-esque. Guitar- and drum-heavy, this energetic song with powerful vocals kicks off the album with a bang and makes listeners interested to hear the rest.
The next track, “Prisoner,” touches on being locked up in infatuation: “I know our love is wrong / I am a criminal / Mmm, I am a prisoner… / For your love.” The pounding guitar riffs and strong harmonica chords sell the song and make Adams’ lyrics relatable.
The harmonica continues to shine in the third song, “Doomsday,” where Adams shares his complicated feelings with his listeners. He says, “I could wait a thousand years, my love” but at the same time admits “… I don’t know / My love, how to let my feelings go.” He is conflicted, as he believes he is able to wait forever for his lover but knows that he can’t and has to let her go.
His distress continues on the mid-tempo, intriguing “Haunted House.” He talks about feeling alone and feeling like he has no one else in the world now: “Welcome to my haunted house / I live here alone, ain’t no one else.”
As listeners are carried through the album, we are brought through the different stages of Adams’ breakup. At the beginning, he knows love is lost and sings of regret he has in the relationship. He moves on to being disturbed and haunted by track five. He doesn’t hold back his heartache when he sings “I see you with some guy / Laughing like you never even knew I was alive” on the down-tempo “Shiver And Shake.” In this song, Adams’ strong, poignant vocals shine through.
“Anything I Say To You Now,” a highlight on the album, has the catchiest guitar chord sequences of any song on the album. A quintessential rock song, heavy electric guitar and drum usage with intense vocals, he shares his anger with his listeners: “Anything I say to you now is just a lie / Anything I say to you now but goodbye.” By the time Adams gets to this point in the album, he is ready to call the relationship off.
The next few tracks follow the pain and brokenness Adams feels, and the album ends with reflection on the aftermath of the relationship with the gorgeous “We Disappear.” “We Disappear” is a song that resembles another 80’s slow rock jam but includes Adams’ signature compelling vocals. Adams sings to sort out his broken heart: “Don’t know what’s the rubble / And the parts I want to save.” Despite this, he’s left at the end of the album to pick up the pieces of a lost love.
In an age where music is often created and manipulated through the use of electronic sounds and synths, it’s impressive that Adams produces music that is purely made up of crooning vocals, guitar, drums and the occasional harmonica and sax solos. Let’s face it: Ryan Adams makes great rock music.
With “Prisoner,” Adams proves both he and rock music are still alive and relevant. Heartbreak undoubtedly helps artists on their way to creating great albums, and it certainly works for him.