This is the first post in a series about the fifteen albums that have a made a big impression on me. See the original post and the list here.
2. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cardinology
I don’t know what I was doing when this album came out, but I had no idea it even existed until recently. The music of Ryan Adams has, since Gold, been a bit of a mystery to me. Gold was one of several albums that got a ton of attention on WXPN, which I listened to when I was still living in NJ. I liked what I’d heard on the radio (“New York”, “Touch, Feel & Lose”), I bought it the CD and listened to it a lot, but in the fuss of moving to another country and taking on a new language, and in some ways a new identity, I lost touch with a lot of music in the years that followed.
In the last year I found songs like “Cobwebs” and “Magick” because of lastyear’sgirl, a fellow Jesse Malin fan with taste in music that clearly parallels mine. Mostly everything she’s felt passionate about I’ve ended up being enamored with as well, even if I didn’t listen until long after she had recommended it. “Cobwebs” is a pretty song (if I fall will you catch me, if I’m sorry enough), with nods to NYC that pull me right in (somewhere the buildings give way to sunlight, give way to east and west Central Park), but it was “Magick” that made me realize that Ryan Adams’ entire catalogue probably needed further listening.
So turn the the radio on
So turn the radio up
So turn the radio up loud and get down
Let your body move
Let your body sway
Listen to the music play
It’s magick, it’s magick
I will always be a sucker for songs about the radio since it was such a huge influence on me growing up, and I feel that I must be kindred spirits with anyone who feels the same. It’s only natural then that this was the song that pushed me over the edge and made me want to listen to the rest of its album. When I did, I quickly realized that it was something I needed on vinyl. “Crossed Out Name” became a very big part of my summer soundtrack as it was something I couldn’t get out of my head while walking around in Manhattan in July and August.
Orange sky, don’t go
Manhattan looks like someplace else
Cloudy with a low fog shelf
Into the crowded streets I go
Eventually they lead me back home
This album made me into a Ryan Adams fan, which probably wasn’t something I would have allowed myself to say until I heard it. But I can now, because Cardinology is something I love, and it’s really just as simple as that. I love the guitar work on this album, which is also something I thought I’d never say. I’ve always been more into the lyrics and melodies than the instrumentation, but there are some artists who make the melding of all those things into a whole, a big something that makes you feel that what you’re getting out of the listening is a feeling impossible to convey when limited to words. This is something definitely happening on Cardinology. The songs feel full and complete, and the album has a mood that is bittersweet, earnest, and sincere. I like to listen to it first thing in the morning, when the sun has been up well before me, but waking up slowly is my only option. Some of the songs provoke in me a precise feeling of introspection capable of detaching me from my surroundings, or anything else going on in the world while others just make me feel peaceful and okay, to put it very simply.
I feel like there’s probably lots of backstory to the making of this album that escapes me, mostly because I wasn’t paying attention to new music when it was released and I never bothered to find out about it until it dropped in my lap. In many ways I’m happy not knowing the details. I am happy just listening. Sometimes it’s so much better not to know too much, and to enjoy something just for what it is and what it means to you. After following along these last few months on Ryan Adams’ Facebook page, where he continually shares songs, videos, poetry and other things that inspire him, I can’t help but think he would agree with this philosophy. There’s a beauty to loving something just because you love it. It something that no one can take from you.