Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
When someone as prolific as Ryan Adams releases a new album, the question is always, does he/she have anything left in the creativity tank? In this case, the answer is a resounding yes. Yes, his style has changed some. But that is true with any artist. No artist, no matter how good, can release the same album over and over. If that were the case, it is doubtful that the artist would have any longevity.
Listen to any recording artist that has been around for any length of time and their first album sounds nothing like their tenth. Ryan Adams is no different. While the style is a bit more subdued, Adams still has this amazing ability to craft beautiful and meaningful songs.
On my first time through Prisoner, my impressions are that this album is extremely listenable and catchy. It is poppy but with substance. As I have stated before, if all pop was constructed like this, the world of music would be a better place.
What makes this brand of pop music palatable and also timeless is the thought and care that is taken in constructing the songs, both lyrically and musically. These songs are not made to be hit friendly, they were made to express Adam’s thoughts and emotions at the time of recording. The fact that all these songs are hit friendly is a mere bonus.
Definitely reminiscent of that introspective 80s jangle pop and synth college rock sound. But, it still has that southern/country flair that is a trademark of Adam’s sound throughout his career. Two of the songs on this collection have harmonica (Prisoner and Doomsday), which is a bonus for me. Even though Adams strays a bit, Prisoner still has that roots rock /Americana sound. It may be too poppy for alt country and too country for pop. That is more an indictment of the fragmented state of music and radio than it is of Prisoner.