Ryan Adams has been a busy man and continues to be a busy man. Just a few short weeks after releasing his double album Chris, he’s followed it up with another double album, Romeo & Juliet. (Read our review of Chris.)
Ryan says this of Romeo & Juliet in an Instagram post:
Romeo & Juliet is a summer album. It’s maybe the first summertime album I’ve ever made, on purpose, from to back. It’s like the tall, long slightly mysterious sister to Easy Tiger. There’s a lot of room here and the stores all unwind like a hot drive in the south with the windows down – sunshine blasting everything.
This is Ryan’s 20th studio album and just like I said about Chris, in plain and simple terms, it’s fucking good.
The album has 19 tracks, 21 for those grab it from his website, and clocks in about one hour and fifteen minutes. While I interpreted Chris to be an emotional journey of loss, love, lessons, and everything between. I find Romeo & Juliet to be full of love, hope, heartfelt memories, heartache, day dreams, and moments where the world was just perfect, as summer often seems.
Without further ado, let’s dive into Romeo & Juliet, track by track.
Rollercoaster – this song sets the moment and the mood for Romeo & Juliet. Dreamy, hopeful, and chock full of summer time love and summer time heart break. The lyrics are full of imagery but it is the subtle bass line and drum beat that hit home for me. They wrap the listener in a warm soft hug.
In the Blue of the Night – this song reminds me of southern summer evenings, watching the setting sun and waiting for the lightning bugs to come out. Nothing overly complex needed here. Just an elegant tune that captures a simple moment in life and holds it in frame for the heart and soul to relive it again. The music is quiet, simple, and beautiful while Ryan’s voice holds that simple moment in a delicate balance of remembering while perhaps needing to let it go.
I Can’t Remember – there’s something Beatlesque about this song to me. I can’t decide if it’s the opening beats, the way the harmonies fall around the lyrics, “spinning like a merry-go-around in my head. I can’t remember anything that you said…”, or the bass and drum. Whatever it is, this song brings a smile to my face.
Something Missing – musically, I like this song and lyrically, I like this song. I just don’t think the music and lyrics fit together. I feel like they’re fighting for the attention of the listener instead of working together and it’s a bit distracting.
Doylestown Girl – I feel this song is a memory. For me it invokes a feeling for a dear friend and her husband. I feel this song could be their soundtrack as they walk behind their kids in the evening in their suburban town. For me, the song feels good and wholesome. I love the string arrangement towards the end of the song. Musically, I find this song to be a beautiful upbeat tune and perhaps one of my favourites on the album. This is the one song I keep revisiting again and again.
Romeo & Juliet – the title track of the album and a story told only as Ryan can tell, like that of in “Carolina Rain”. This track like the Shakespeare play, does not have a happy ending. The song is delicate, haunting, and heartbreaking.
Anything – Ryan had me at the bass in this song. Everything else is a bonus. I’m torn between feeling moments of midnight smokey jazz lounge act and a bit of Billy Vera & the Beaters “At this Moment” as the soundtrack to Alex P. Keaton and Ellen Reed’s relationship Family Ties (yes, I am showing my damn age). It’s the raw emotion of the vocals and lyrics with the bass that tear at the heart. This is the soundtrack to Ryan’s Alex and Ellen but it’s Romeo and Juliet instead.
Rain in LA – continuing with midnight smokey jazz lounge feel from the track before, the subtle bass dances beautifully with the piano while Ryan pours out his emotions through heartfelt lyrics. It’s quite a lovely song.
Poor Connection – this song is just Ryan and the guitar and once again showcases his story telling. It’s one of the things I like about Ryan. He can tell a complete story within minutes of a song where some writers can’t do that within hundreds of pages in a book. My favourite lyric is, “you’re the picture, tapped to the mirror in my head.” The song is poetry in motion.
In the Meadow – another here for the bass, stayed for the rest of the song.
Run – lyrically, one of my favourite songs on the album. I would quote the entire song but that would be overkill. The lyrics to this song just hit me in the feels. Musically and lyrically, this song is perfect.
This Your House – If I’m honest, this track feels like a filler song. For me, the music buries Ryan’s vocals in this song.
At Home with the Animals – “Of all the ways I wanted to be loved, you were not enough…” these lyrics hit in the gut. The entire song is that way. The tit for tat. This song is Ryan and his guitar and in its simplicity, the lyrics shine.
Earthquake – hello bass, I love you. It compliments the emotion in Ryan’s voice. Invoking heartache while holding out for a bit of hope.
Hold Me Together – I know I’m starting to sound repetitive but the bass again (I’m a bass girl all right). This song is a summer memory leaving in the setting sun. The chorus is infectious. The music is head swaying. It’s just an upbeat and jammy tune.
Losers – once again the piano and bass in this song have a delicate dance as the drums and guitar play along. Add Ryan’s voice and lyrics and you have a song that could be a battle cry of hope. The moment where the disenfranchised band together and stand up for themselves.
My Heaven – this song is heartbreakingly beautiful and a tear jerker.
Theo is Dreaming – a lovely ode to his dear lost friend.
They Will Know Our Love – I’ll be honest, for the first minute & fifty seconds or so, the song does not have my attention, it’s not until midway through the song that I’m finally hooked through the music. Then it loses me again.
Desperate Times – one final story from Ryan before the album ends. It’s my favourite “story” from the album.
Something Missing – the bonus track is slightly different than that of the track at the beginning of the album but it’s still combative.
Romeo & Juliet is currently available via PAX-AM.
FAVOURITE TRACK: tie between “Run” and “Doylestown Girl”
MUST LISTEN TRACK: “At Home with the Animals”
RATING OUT OF 5 ROCK HANDS: 4 🤘🤘🤘🤘
Out of Chris and Romeo & Juliet, I dig Chris more than Romeo & Juliet. There were too many moments where I was able to tune out from listening, but Ryan’s story telling, the bass, and “Doylestown Girl” and “Run” save the album from receiving 3 out of 5 rock hands.
Read the review for Chris.