17 years ago ‘Heartbreaker’ got released, Ryan Adams‘ first solo album after his previous group Whiskeytown disbanded. Another break-up album – ‘Prisoner’, the man isn’t too lucky in the love department – would follow in 2017 but ‘Heartbreaker’ is widely regarded as one of his most stunning accomplishments. One that translates heartache into music in the most beautiful way possible. The fact that it got delivered by a then 27-year-old Adams makes it all the more impressive.
Pitchfork describes the album as ‘the soundtrack to the last ten minutes of any relationship you’ve ever watched crumble before your eyes’. I describe it, less proficiently, as the album that unconditionally got me into Adams and his work. Something my friends, whom I tend to stalk with his music, occasionally do regret.
Raw and genuine
Being a hopeless romantic – my superpower is that I can shield it from plain sight – it is no coincidence that this is easily my favorite Ryan Adams’ album. Heartache and beauty are concepts I often tend to see combined within my favorite pieces of music. ‘Heartbreaker’ is a prime example of just that, whilst at the same time, it manages to stay away from the clichés. Resulting in a raw and genuine sounding masterpiece.
Fittingly, the album starts off with an argument between Adams and Rawlings about Morrissey, that other master of tristesse. Coincidences do not exist.
Naming my favorite tracks on the album is an impossible task. But allow me to state that I’ve never listened once to ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’, a duet with the divine Emmylou Harris, without a trace of moist in at least one of my eyes. Most of the times that would be the left one. Or both.
Do yourself a favor and listen to the album in case you didn’t yet. If you did, I suggest you do it again. And again. Acknowledge the realness of the album. And realize furthermore that Adams – he is still only 42 – is productive as ever nowadays. At this point, he has 16 (!) records on his sleeve and there is no doubt that a lot is still to come. A thought I’m genuinely happy with.