Released September 21st, 2015
What makes your personal album of the year? Is it a record that you think sounds incredible for its time but is quite difficult to digest in one sitting? Is it a record that has lauded critical acclaim at every corner? Or is it simply a record you've played to death and cannot get enough of? In my case it is always the latter, my favourite records are the ones I play over and over and over again. I really couldn't care less what other reviewers say, what other people think or the fact that my favourite record of 2015 is a cover album of Taylor Swift's 1989.
I wasn't convinced before I heard it, I'm not even a big Ryan Adams fan and my love of Taylor Swift doesn't go too much past "Shake It Off', "Wildest Dreams" and "Blank Space". Taylor's album is too mechanical for me, the distorted, processed vocals and synthetic beats aren't my thing but Ryan Adams has taken some quite spectacular songs, re-imagined them and made them feel like my own, an indie album to hit this indie kid right in the gut.
The album flutters between full of swaggering indie-rock instrumentation ("Style") to stripped back guitars full of aching, burning atmosphere ("Blank Space", "This Love"), the result is an emotional tour-de-force that stays long after listening. A complete, cohesive experience and an album I've listened to more than twice the amount than any other record this year - if that isn't your favourite record of the year, what is?
"Welcome to New York" is incredible, sounding like Springsteen at his full pomp with shimmering, echoing guitars and a truly outstanding vocal delivery. "Out of the Woods" is two minutes longer, purposely drawn out and transformed into a slowly waltzing, wounded ballad full of hurt amongst the repeated "Are we out of the woods? Are we in the clear yet? Good" before an inspired instrumental outro full of strings.
"All You Had to Do Was Stay" sounds like the delivery of a man who'd just gone through a painful break-up - of course Adams' had - rumbling percussion, jangly guitars and impassioned, yearning vocals. It's one of the obvious highlights. The other is similar in its heartbreak, "I Wish You Would" sees Ryan Adams' voice front and centre, bruised, fragile and beautiful.
Of the big hits, in my opinion, it is "Wildest Dreams" that works the best, a rich, mid-pace jangle that shines around it's hooky verses and sublime chorus. "How You Get the Girl" sounds like something Ryan Adams would write - he's probably pissed he didn't - heartfelt and emotive it's also brilliant - it's a running theme throughout - and I have to mention the creeping "Clean" too. Like the entire album Adams sings it straight up and from deep inside, it finds the inner sorrow and strength that the shiny originals hide beneath neon synths and digital processing.
This 1989 highlights the genuine artistic talents of both Adams and Swift to new audiences respectively, the best cover album I've ever heard. My album of 2015.