Ashes & Fire (PAX-AM/Capitol)
Ryan Adams’ latest opens rather fittingly, as he soulfully sings, “Last time I was here it was raining / Ain’t raining anymore.”
Maybe it’s not a direct reference to his rough past — heavy drug use, the death of his bassist, a career-threatening ear disease — but it certainly feels like it. Ashes & Fire is what Adams sounds like when he’s clean, sober and happily married, and it sounds good. Some of the edge is lost, but it’s replaced with an equally satisfying emotional release.
Adams gets some support from Norah Jones and his wife, Mandy Moore, both of whom bring extra softness to the album with their pretty vocals. It’s also worth noting that he’s backed by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench.
Overall, the album feels like rainy-day music. Adams croons earnestly over steady acoustic strumming and beautiful piano harmonies, and it’s nice to hear him mellow out.
TKOL RMX 1234567 (XL Recordings)
Listening to these remixes felt like an artistic exercise. It was an interesting, enjoyable listen, but I’m not hooked. The musician in me wants to pick it apart and analyze, but the average listener in me doesn’t really want to hear it again.
This feeling might not be so pretentious or far off the target. Here’s what Thom Yorke told fan website ateaseweb.com: “I love that there is such a culture of remixing at the moment, all this flow of ideas. It may come out of the club scene but to me there is a lot more to it than that. I think it appeals to us as a band at the moment that ideas and versions are not so fixed and set in stone, it feels kind of healthy for music.”
Perhaps the most important thing to note is that these aren’t dance remixes designed to make Radiohead playable in a club. The remixes maintain the same vibe as Radiohead’s eighth studio album, The King of Limbs, yet at the hands of Caribou, SBTRKT, Jamie xx, Four Tet and others, the songs lose almost all trace of warmth or emotion. It’s fascinating to hear “Bloom” reworked five different ways, but it’s also a bit tiresome. Pace yourself on this one.
— Ashley Dean