Love Is Hell Part 2

Adams shows he can still do gentle, understated tunes somewhere inside the mind of Ryan Adams, far away from the twitchy extroversion he's currently selling via his new album, Rock N Roll, a humble troubadour still writes little songs. They're not all stunners — some of the character sketches on his second Love Is Hell EP (the first was released in November) are bona fide corn, such as the maudlin McCartney-esque "Thank You Louise." But Adams is a craftsman, and on the image-rich Pt. 2, he's taken lyrics he might have otherwise discarded and inflated them into pure romantic reverie, surrounding the vocals with gentle, understated music. "My Blue Manhattan" is a piano-based Tin Pan Alley thing sung with echoes of Leonard Cohen; "I See Monsters" is dreamlike and vaguely psychedelic, a disconsolate tangle of emotion. Cynics might say the prickly star is using these EPs to atone for his previous excesses, but that doesn't change what's in the music: seven riveting explorations that don't sound like anything else in his songbook.

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