by Dylan Looney
As I mentioned in my first-ever post for this blog, I never quite understood Taylor Swift’s blockbuster 1989. It seems that every female friend (and a few dudes, too) have this CD in their car and play it regularly. Released last December, it was the first album of 2014 to break into platinum status. To further highlight its significance, alt-country/garage-rock/whatever-feels-like-playing-this-week artist Ryan Adams has released his much-talked-about cover project of the entire album. It’s one thing to do a tongue-in-cheek acoustic cover of “Shake it Off” on YouTube, but Adams has covered this whole album, putting his own spin on each track.
Adams’ 1989 is a more somber, rootsy take on Swift’s album. He manages to turn “Welcome to New York” and “Style” into pure early 80s Springsteen tracks. In fact, you could say that about this whole album: it’s Ryan Adams does Springsteen does Taylor Swift. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. The raw instrumentation and Adams’s understated but emotional vocals help to reveal the depth in Swift’s lyrics, particularly in “Out of the Woods” and “I Wish You Would.” There’s some really solid production at work here, too. A tad of echo on every song gives it a live feel. However, at times, particularly towards the end of the album, the songs start to run together and fall into a murky puddle of depression for depression’s sake. While musically Adams’s work here is admirable, he could have afforded to take more cues from the original tracks and made some more of the tracks up-tempo to break the monotony. For Pete’s sake, he managed to make “Shake it Off” depressing.
I would recommend Ryan Adams’ 1989 for fans of the original who are looking to hear “Blank Space” or “Bad Blood,” but not the same way they’ve heard it a thousand times by now. If you’re looking to get into Ryan Adams, however, this should not be your starting point. For that, I would suggest Gold, Heartbreaker, and especially last year’s self-titled release, which has 1989’s awesome 80s production, but with more overall variety in the songs.