Consistency is Key
Cardinology, Ryan Adamsâ€šÃ„Ã´ latest work with his band the Cardinals, makes no attempt to upend the singer-songwriterâ€šÃ„Ã´s reputation as alt-countryâ€šÃ„Ã´s most prolific performer, and fits solidly into Adamsâ€šÃ„Ã´ discography, standing out as neither his best nor his worst album. He continues to bombard fans with more music, perhaps more often than they can handle (Cardinology is his third album in less than 18 months), as he keeps working to perfect his dispassionate brand of country-tinged rock.Cardinology presents itself more as a collection of the sounds of Ryan Adams than a display of new work. It opens with â€šÃ„ÃºBorn Into A Light,â€šÃ„Ã¹ the albumâ€šÃ„Ã´s strongest track, which signals the beginning of a quality album with a powerful acoustic theme and insightful lyrics. Other highlights include â€šÃ„ÃºMagick,â€šÃ„Ã¹ a straight-up rock song with lyrics catering to party-goers, and â€šÃ„ÃºLet Us Down Easy,â€šÃ„Ã¹ a mid-tempo southern rock song that serves to showcase Adamsâ€šÃ„Ã´ vocal talents.
The major downfall of Cardinology is its lack of innovation. The album is reminiscent of nearly every other Adams album, especially those recorded since the beginning of his collaboration with the Cardinals. Adams recycles his usual themes, from lovesick lyrics to praise for New York, his adopted hometown (and the locale that launched him into stardom with 2001â€šÃ„Ã´s Gold). These old standbys work, but given Adamsâ€šÃ„Ã´ place in history as the founder of alt-country, one would have hoped he had some new tricks up his sleeve.
Unfortunately, the majority of the tracks on Cardinology leave something to be desired, either musically, as in the sparse ballads of â€šÃ„ÃºCrossed Out Nameâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºStop,â€šÃ„Ã¹ or lyrically, as in â€šÃ„ÃºFix It,â€šÃ„Ã¹ which starts out with a lounge-inspired instrumental introduction but falls short with its sappy chorus. Despite these shortcomings, the album is a solid collection of Ryan Adams standards, and although Cardinology may not help win new fans, it will satisfy longtime followers.