Ryan Adams / Ryan Adams & the Cardinals


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Recorded during the 2007 sessions that produced Easy Tiger but shelved until 2010 for no particular reason, the double-album III/IV shares much of the relaxed, unhurried vibe of that tight 2007 LP but there is a key difference: this is a straight-up rock & roll album, the first Ryan Adams has released with the Cardinals. No country touches III/IV, not even of the Deadhead variety: Adams is in his alt-rocker mode, so much so that he even dabbles in textures borrowed from the Killers, who were at the height of their prominence back in 2007. Despite these lingering new wave affectations, the roots of this record lie in the left-of-the-dial sounds of the late ‘80s. Adams touches upon rainy-day English rock and atmospheric anthems custom-made for arenas, but his touchstone remains American rock, specifically the Replacements. He’s never as reckless as the Mats at their peak -- hell, he’s never as reckless as he was on Rock n Roll, but he’s not as desperate to prove his greatness as he was on that 2003 mess either. And that’s the charm of III/IV and of Adams in general since he’s gotten sober: he’s not trying so hard. Songs still spill out of him as if he can’t control it, but he no longer sounds as if he ranks his merit by sheer numbers -- he’s just enjoying the process, and who could blame him when he’s back with a band as sympathetic to his needs as the Cardinals? As adept with this set of alt-rock as they were with country-rock, they play into Adams’ newfound relaxed assurance, which is in some ways better heard on III/IV than it was on Easy Tiger simply because he sustains interests over two discs, never peaking yet never lagging either.

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