Tag Archives: Lost Highway

Morrissey Saddles Up to Lost Highway

Morrissey - Years of Refusal

Billboard reports that Morrissey has inked a U.S. deal with Lost Highway for the release of his new album, Years of Refusal, produced by Jerry Finn and due February 17.

Lost Highway, of course, is the Americana label that boasts folksy artists such as Ryan Adams, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, and Lucinda Williams. In the “foreigner” column, they’ve also got Elvis Costello and Van Morrison. Looks like Lost Highway is encroaching on Anti‘s territory of picking up veteran artists who are no longer profitable enough for a major label. But unlike Anti, which is a legitimately independent label, Lost Highway is a division of UMG.

Even odder than the label (or the cover art) is the fact that Jeff Beck guests on the track “Black Cloud.” So this means Morrissey is following in the footsteps of Rod Stewart and Donovan. Strange company.

Tracklist and tour dates after the jump…

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Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cold Roses

Ryan Adams & the CardinalsCold Roses (Lost Highway)

I hated the Grateful Dead in high school. I was a dope. What did I know? I thought the Sex Pistols were anti-establishment and came together from the streets to tear down the mantles of hippy-dom. I had no idea they were manufactured in a fucking clothes shop. As it turns out, the Dead had more “punk” ethic in their day than John Lydon could farmer snot in his.

And so our boy Ryan Adams turns to Jerry and crew in the first song from the new album Cold Roses. This after the less-than-authentic angst and spit of Rock N Roll (review). And he fucking nails it. Shit, it’s even called “Magnolia Mountain.” You gotta admit, the kid’s got balls.

I have long been a fan of Adams. Sure, I bashed a release here and there, but it was because I fucking cared. I knew there was more. Cold Roses finds Ryan Adams back to doing what he does best. I hate to say a “return to form” because I wouldn’t want to stifle the guy to rehashing Heartbreaker for all his days, but Cold Roses does find Adams where he seems to be most comfortable—singing songs without adornment or pretension.

Gone is the thick reverb and English accent of Love is Hell (review); gone is the messed-hair over-compensation of Rock N Roll. What we have is what has always been known to Ryan Adams fans: he’s a fucking great songwriter with a beautiful voice.

Also gone is the bloated production of his last three releases. Anyone who was lost recently can cling with devotion to this album. It sounds fantastic. It’s simple. “Dance All Night” is all harmonica and twangy Telecaster. I have recently fallen off the alt-country train but this album retains everything I originally loved about the genre without sounding like a parody.

For Christ’s sake, I am writing a fawning review of Ryan Adams’ new album and I couldn’t be happier.

This album shows the songwriter in his rawest, most vulnerable form in years. The vocals on “Blossom” sound like he’s got a cold, and that’s a plus. It sounds like we just caught him on a night when he’s feeling like shit singing about a girl he’s afraid he’s lost. What’s better than that? My only complaint is that the chorus feels a bit forced. It feels crammed into the song, like the melody was written and the words had to accommodate.

Is it original? Well, what does that mean? You can certainly hear the influences, but this time he’s channeling them through his own lens. Maybe it’s that Ryan Adams channels 70s folk rock better than he does 80s college rock, but it works.

Ryan Adams – Rock N Roll

Ryan AdamsRock N Roll (Lost Highway)

It’s easy to hate Ryan Adams. But it’s impossible to hate his music. Heartbreaker oozed with honesty, Gold exploded with melody, Demolition screams with potential, and his newest release, Rock N Roll does just what the name implies: it rocks.

According to Adams, Rock N Roll was conceived the day Lost Highway decided that Love is Hell was too moody to release. Ryan being Ryan, he drank away his troubles, met up with Johnny T, and decided to give the record executives something that is everything except moody. Out came Rock N Roll, the final bullet to the head of Whiskeytown.

Adams’ newest release is a trip through his record collection. You can hear U2 in the first single, “So Alive.” “Note to Self: Don’t Die” is the best song Nirvana could never write. “Anybody Wanna Take Me Home” takes a page out of Morrisey’s playbook. But should Adams be punished for wearing his influences on his sleeve?

Rock N Roll features Adams’ most intricate guitar work and showcases his ever-improving voice perfectly. The songs exhibit a new sense of attitude missing from Adams’ previous work. We always knew Adams was a braggart—now his music proves it. Ryan doesn’t shy away from responding the public through his songs either. “Note to self: don’t change for anyone,” he growls, responding to recent criticisms from both fans and critics alike.

While the album showcases a slew of guest performers such as Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day and Ryan’s current love, Parker Posey, they are neither a help nor hindrance to the songs. It is Adams’ record from the moment he says “Let me sing a song to you that’s never been sung before” in “This is It” (a tongue-in-cheek reference to The Strokes) to the album’s closing line “Los Angeles is dead” in “The Drugs Not Working.”

“Does anybody wanna take me home,” asks Ryan Adams. The answer is a resounding yes.

Read the Glorious Noise reviews of Love Is Hell, Pt. 1 and Demolition. And be sure to check out the silly online feud between Ryan Adams and GLONO’s Jake Brown.

Ryan Adams – Love is Hell, Pt. 1

Ryan AdamsLove is Hell, Pt. 1 (Lost Highway)

What are we going to do about this guy? Seriously. Not only does he put out two records in one day, but the one I get stuck reviewing is his foray into 80s light rock? I’d rather have the dirty stick, thanks very much.

Love is Hell, Pt. 1 (thanks for the warning of the coming Part 2) starts out strong, actually. The lead-off track, “Political Scientist,” is a spooky tune about chemical plants and all that dark grimey shit that is so in fashion during this Bush administration. The bass playing is fantastic and melodic like that of McCartney’s best post-Rubber Soul. The song launches into some nice soundscapes toward the end and can’t help but draw comparisons to bits of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (a band for which Adams is forever linked because of his constant disingenuous distancing). And while the lead guitar hovers too close to later day David Gilmore for my likings, it quickly recovers to a jangly mess that touches more on Mind Bomb-era Johnny Marr and continues Adams’ fascination with all things Smiths.

That, of course, brings us to the Mozzer-like “Afraid Not Scared,” which would be a fine song if not for the annoying layers of reverb all over the place. It’s like Ryan just discovered the Alesis Quadraverb that musicians everywhere first got their hands on in 1986. Most of this EP is stuck in 1986, in fact.

Produced by John Porter (yes, of the Smiths and Roxy Music fame), Love is Hell reeks of 80s polish and echo. It seems Adams cannot let his songs come through these days without drenching them in the putrid stench of bad production. For someone with all the bravado of a street fighter in print, he seems too afraid to let his songs stand on their own.

Even the Oasis cover “Wonderwall,” a song by two loud-mouthed mother fuckers who could teach Ryan a thing or two about being a ponce, falls flat with the use of a fretless bass. Fretless bass! Christ, even Sting has steered relatively clear of this soul sucking instrument since that crap Blue Turtle record that let us all in on his diabolical plan to soften rock.

Ah, but it seems our boy is a bit of an anglophile. Sure, good music lovers everywhere owe a debt to that tiny island nation for the wealth of great pop they’ve ponied up. But Ryan Adams seems to be turning into that annoying girl on foreign study who adopts a British accent two weeks into the semester. Yes, Ryan even screams out “love is ‘ell” on the title track. Need I say more?

Sad to say because I love a lot of what Ryan Adams has done, but what made his earlier work so compelling was his reliance on good songwriting and loose production. This album has neither and is better left for the WLHT crowd.

Ryan Adams’ Latest Ploy

Ryan AdamsDemolition (Lost Highway)

DemolitionI don’t know why people are calling this a collection of demos. It’s just another marketing ploy as far as I can tell. A demo implies some sort of prototype; a sketch from which to work. The songs on Demolition are polished and complete. If you’re expecting 4-track recordings with half-finished vocals and an insight into the artist at work, keep looking.

That said, Demolition stands on it’s own as a collection. Not an album, mind you as there’s no real cohesion in the tracking of this album and you can forget about any sense of an identity. It’s as schizophrenic as that guy in the dirty coat who calls you Number 3 every morning on your way to work. Maybe the Beatles and the Beach Boys (not to mention Pink Floyd) have forever ruined us on albums with themes. What happened to just having a bunch of songs? Perhaps that’s why Lost Highway and Adams decided to market this as a group of songs destined for albums never to be released rather than an ambling work of individual songs.

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