It won't take you long to work out the state of mind on Ryan Adams' 15th forthcoming album when you read that the title is Prisoner and the album art looks more brutal on the heart than Picasso's "Guernica." The sound of "Do You Still Love Me?", the lead single released last night, signals the introduction to a killer post-divorce album (he split with Mandy Moore last year). Adams appears trapped in the swirl of doubt, an inmate in a broken relationship, a guilty party unsure of the crime he's committed, a convict with an infinite sentence that can't see an end to the turmoil.
The track is elevated to near alt religious heights by an organ motif that stagnates Adams' stinging Americana riffs. It's like it's living in the moment of a love shattering. It's the sound of a wedding church scene playing backwards, it's the cinematic rewind of a journey down the aisle, hell it's Guns N Roses' 'November Rain' but straight to the pain-staking point.
Last month, just after the election, Ryan Adams played an intimate set to an audience at Capitol Records' legendary Studios A/B with his new live band. He cracked self-deprecating jokes, debuted his first new songs since 2014's Ryan Adams (let's forget the Taylor Swift covers album for a minute yeh), while hunching over himself underneath a big American flag. He looked more inwards than ever, but when he opened his mouth there was zero constraint. I came away from it thinking: Shit! This is the heartbreak album the US needs right now.
"Another year will pass, I will count the days / Another sun goes down, and I'll never see the rays," is an angry, saddened expression of self-punishment for losing time in a hopeless situation. You almost hear Adams teeter on "Did you ever love me?" but there's a faint hope that once there was something good with every cry of "I didn't want it to change!" We've all been there.
Prisoner is out on February 17th, so if someone cuts you up next Valentine's Day, Adams is going to be there for you with open arms.
Eve Barlow wonders if you still love her 24/7. She's on Twitter.