Foundations: Heartbreaker

It may surprise some of you, but we at The Wild Honey Pie weren’t born with spectacular taste. Taste, especially for music nerds, is a slow Lincoln Logs like journey with artists and albums laying the foundation for the snarky music writer to come. So every month (or so) we writers will share with you the records that made us the snobs and geeks that we are today. These aren’t the most important records, or even favorite records, they are simply, our foundations.

 I can remember the exact point that I listened to several earth shattering records. When I heard Radiohead’s OK Computer for the first time I was ten, at home in the living room with my dad, and was forced into a stunned silence within the first few bars of “Airbag.” Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was first experienced in the car with my dad stopping every now and again to say, “holy shit, someone made this.” I cannot remember the first time I listened to Heartbreaker. Ryan Adams was 25 when he recorded Heartbreaker, the first of his solo records. He was in the middle of disbanding his first band Whiskeytown, had just moved from South Carolina to New York City and had been through a particularly terrible break up. It is a painful, emotionally tumultuous record. The opening tracks, an argument over a Morrissey song followed by the upbeat “To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be High)” offer the only joyous moments on the record. “To be Young” is fun on the surface but, in the end, it is also a window to the horrible substance abuse and pain that was a part of Adams’ life for so long. Lyrics have always been Adams’ strong point, though his gift for melody and despair ridden voice should be given just as much credit for the musical punches that he creates. “Come Pick Me Up,” the most popular song from the record, shows his talents off brilliantly. Every note he sings aches, the melody groans and the words hit you in the gut like only the pain of loving the wrong person can. Heartbreaker’s magic comes from making even the most grizzled and hollow listener feel empathetic. Heartbreaker is not earth shattering; it is not the kind of record that makes music sound hard to do or is anything entirely revolutionary. It is the kind of record, however, that gets under your skin. It buries itself in you until you know all the songs, until you have three Ryan Adams posters on your wall, until you are suddenly an expert in Alt Country (whatever that is)[1]. I do not remember the first time I listened to Heartbreaker, but I remember crying to “In My Time of Need” in the throes of a toxic relationship, I remember dancing to “To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high)” with my best friend before she moved to Switzerland, I remember singing the harmonies to “Come Pick Me Up” with my Dad.

——————————————————————————– [1] Thanks to No Depression for that catch phrase.


About missangst

Culture writer, sketch comedian, breathing person.
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