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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Ryan Adams
Easy Tiger
Lost Highway

Rating: 7.9/10 ?

June 25, 2007
Ryan Adams has never made great albums. He's always got leftovers ("meatloaf" as he dubbed it) and the critics have always slammed him for it. I, for one, would like a few more leftovers, maybe a double-album's worth or something. After a prolific but uncentered period of releases, Adams has finally found a balance with Easy Tiger, which rests comfortably between his acoustic side and his rootsy side; from the pop numbers to the more country-leaning ones, Adams sounds more assured and comfortable in his own skin than he has to date.

With the departure of Cardinals guitarist J.P. Bowersock and bassist Catherine Popper since last year's flurry of releases, Adams' new "band" seemed like it might go the way of Whiskeytown, (who can stand Ryan the longest?) but the release of Easy Tiger sees Adams' backing troupe (who are not billed on this record) able to lend ample support. Not since Gold has Adams been pickier about the material and his recent return to country seems like the flavor of the month.

Adams dips his toes in the springfed ditch of bluegrass for the standout "Pearls on a String," its beautiful chorus (delivered with a bit of help from his bandmates) of "Glorious kind and always on time, pearls on a string" arriving at 2:25. The whole band gets the writing credits for the gem and the sonic texture feels like it came over beers on a porch in the Carolinas. The arrangement fills out the bluegrass like Adams never has before (often adding a quiet background banjo or mandolin). It's so good, it begs the question as to why Adams hasn't tried a bluegrass album a la Steve Earle's classic The Mountain (though I'm sure his attention span is too short, and at any rate he hardly needs another diversion).

"These Girls," another classic Adams track, is a reworked version of "Hey There, Mrs. Lovely" from the earlier unreleased Destroyer Sessions. The lyrics have been changed, but the essence is the same and this is the kind of signature Ryan Adams song that needs only an acoustic guitar or two to do the talking. Another of Adams' classic simple solo tunes is the unfortunately titled, "Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.," which sounds like it could've been left on the cutting room floor after the final Demolition mix. The piano part accents the chorus and squeaking strings give the recording a bedroom touch of intimacy.

Leadoff single "Two" provides a pop sheen with a subtle pedal steel part, and the lyrics have a flavor of earnestness long missing from Adams' craft: "I got a really good heart/ I just can't catch a break/ If I could I'd treat you like you wanted me to I promise." It's that kind of straightforward lyrical play that pulls the track off, nice and catchy, and I suppose having Sheryl Crow guest on the track doesn't hurt, although her contribution is inconspicuous enough that you'd never know if you hadn't seen the credits. Shifting gears, the ill-advised "Dear John" comes off like an Adams guest spot on a Norah Jones album - if you're going to bring in an annoying pop-chanteuse (or Grammy flavor of the week in Jones' case) to sell records, at least be a little embarrassed about it.

As much as I'd like to give Ryan Adams credit for knowing when to actually listen to the critics, I doubt he met Lost Highway's decision to shelve his proposed third release in a calendar year with love and understanding. Either way, this time around Adams has been (relatively) quiet and has refrained from pulling off a Rock N Roll, half-assed album fiasco. For anyone who has followed Adams' now lengthy career, Easy Tiger stands out as the first time that he's really seemed comfortable enough to come off smooth as a frontman. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding; Easy Tiger is his most consistent effort since Gold and his without doubt his most assured ever. Granted, it is a Ryan Adams release, so the requisite throwaway tracks still linger, but the album's best songs are catchy and confident. Hopefully people will notice and Adams will soon be free to release his world-famous, fridge-chilled meatloaf leftovers for consumption.

Reviewed by Jeff McMahon
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Jeff McMahon



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