Category: The Guest List

Another View: On Ryan Adams

Preface: Earlier Last this month we ran a piece by PuR contributor Andy Moreno about the recent Ryan Adams allegations and got some compelling feedback. While some people were empathetic to her argument, others took issue with it. Kathryn Musilek and Andrew Gerhan of Nevada Nevada have written a response to that initial editorial.

Here it is.

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In her recent essay , entitled” Touch, Feel, Lose and Cry…”, Andy Moreno writes that art is not the guilty party. In the case of Ryan Adam’s recently publicized abuse allegations we would tend to agree, it wasn’t the art that made Adams do what he did. Likewise we do not think Ozzy’s Suicide Solution made John Daniel McCollum shoot himself, nor do we think Rammstein and video games made Klebold and Harris shoot up their school. However we diverge from Moreno when she then mourns for the loss of audience Ryan Adams’ work is sure to suffer and the loss of his various music industry deals his wallet has suffered. Although she rightly empathises and voices regret for Adam’s human victims, she argues that the art itself should not be made a victim as well.

We would counter that the art is already a victim of Adam’s actions, and (the collective) we have no say in the matter. Art does not exist in a vacuum, it was created by someone, someplace and at some point in time. This gives it a context, and that context has everything to do with how a work is considered and appreciated. In 1913 Listeners rioted when they first heard Stravinsky’s The Rites of Spring. Now that we’re accustomed to the cacophony of an industrialized world and screamo bands, The Rites of Spring sounds like beautiful, if incredibly spooky, classical music. Punk rock was shocking in 1977. Blink 182 and The Vans Warped Tour less so in the 2000s. Ryan Adams’ songs used to exist in a context where he was an alt country icon. Now they exist in a world where he, the creator, is understood to be a serial abuser. The context has changed and therefore the meaning of the work has changed, and it was changed by Adams’ own hand. Although it is far from the biggest atrocity he has committed, he has desecrated his own artistic legacy. He has soiled his own songs for anyone with true empathy for both the numerous women he abused, and the art they stopped making because of that abuse.

We should mourn for these women, but we should not waste time mourning Adams’ work for several reasons: firstly people are far more important than songs. Art is made by people. Some art has “soul”. Some is sad, happy, angry, sexy, etc. However a piece of art isn’t a person. It doesn’t have a soul, nor does it feel any emotion and cannot be emotionally abused. Art doesn’t need our protection, people do. In this case these people are the women who were victimized by Adams’ sexual and emotional abuse, and this is the most important part of all of this by far.

Secondly, if we are going to mourn for songs in the wake of Adams’ actions, we should really mourn for the work that wasn’t and won’t be made by his victims. Take the 20 year old the New York Times refers to as Ava, who “…had been a gifted bassist by the age of 9”, and who, after Adams has not played another show and is now “put off” by the idea of being a musician. Or the 35 year old Courtney Jaye who said that after Adams abuse “something changed in me…it made me just not want to make music”. Ryan Adams music has been heard (and purchased) by millions. His victims had this opportunity taken from them by Adams. Abusers who violently and harmfully occupy artistic space, keeping women out of that space, should not be collecting huge checks for their streaming and radio royalties.

Thirdly we have a new context and this demands new art from people who deserve our attention and admiration. This is actually a moment of hope and possibility within the larger shadow cast by Adams abuse. As the #metoo movement shines a light into the dark corners of the rock club, the recording studio, and the offices of the music industry in general, rock should be liberated from its legacy of taint caused by (some of) it’s creators. This is an opportunity to create and to champion new art that is free from the burden of this baggage. In this new context we find ourselves in, this will be better art than what we were clinging to because we, ourselves have been changed.

Our final point is that of Adams business ties which were severed after the news of the allegations broke. His record label, touring partners, and several companies who had given Adams equipment endorsements all put collaborations on hold or parted ways with him. Moreno acknowledges that this makes good business sense for the companies involved but predicts that society will suffer because this art has value to it and it will now be withheld. We agree that this is good business sense. The various deals were penned with an understanding of Ryan Adams’ identity, and this was irrevocably altered by Adams’ actions. It is these actions that have already robbed society of the value of this art. Even if the labels still put out the records and the bookers and promoters still organized the tours, the benefits of this artwork have been erased by Adams’ actions. All of these entities have a limited bandwidth for collaborating with and supporting artists and they should free up the space for art that is not tainted. Plus Adams owns a recording studio and can continue to create and distribute his work on his own to whatever audience remains, unless the FBI investigation being conducted yields indictment(s) for which he is found guilty and he loses his assets and/or his freedom. It is a safe bet some, if not all of his victims don’t have facilities such as PAX-AM at their disposal.

We just hope that when we hear his music, rather than feeling sad that we may not enjoy it to its fullest extent, we can feel sad for the victims of Adams and of all the abusers in the world of art-making, and that our sympathies lie more with the victims than with the inanimate albums we used to enjoy, guilt-free. We hope that his songs sound different, weaker, less admirable or even skeevy in this new context of his abuse, or that even if they sound the same that they feel different. If they don’t sound any different to you, we encourage you to read more about what he’s done, and imagine how his music might sound or feel if you were one of those women, or if your sisters, friends, or mothers were abused by him. Would you still feel that the art is the thing that needs protection?

Touch, Feel, Lose and Cry, Cry, Cry

Preface: PuR contributor Andy Moreno and I had a long talk about the recent allegations directed toward Ryan Adams and the conversation was complicated. The obvious questions surfaced. Does continuing to listen to the music of someone you know has done something terrible, has hurt other people, mean you are tacitly okay with what they’ve done? Does the art itself exist as a completely separate entity from the artist? We started talking about Adams and inevitably moved up the “genius” ladder and ended up discussing Michael Jackson, Miles Davis and Picasso. Brilliant artists yes, but people who did despicable, damaging, and unforgivable things to other people.

I loved John Martyn, the late English folk rock legend. He made some indescribably beautiful music that pulled me through the darkest of times: there was a year where I listened to him every single night to help me calm down and sleep. Those songs were a light. Years later I discovered that while he was recording all this powerful, heartfelt music, he was being physically abusive toward his wife Beverley on a regular basis. He was a raging, drunken asshole. It was repulsive to hear, still is, probably always will be. It’s been hard to reconcile in my head that I still adore his plaintive and sad signature song “Solid Air” and still listen to it, because part of me wants to hate him, cut him off.

Andy wanted to write something regarding Ryan Adams. Here it is.

Full disclosure, Ryan Adams has been one of those artists that I’ve seen many times live, and whose music I have obsessed over through it’s many phases. I have rooted for him knowing he’s probably not a nice person in the same way I secretly love Woody Allen films.  His vocal tone and range is so precious. His songs rain to use his term. Even though he rejects all connection to Alt-country, those Whiskeytown songs were all favorites of mine.  When I hear them I still go places that no other music takes me. Ryan’s Heartbreaker and Gold albums in particular, along with a few others, helped me get through very tough relationship despair and grief and then later became the live soundtrack to more horrid recklessness of my own creation.  Touch, Feel, Lose was a lifeline for days. I was playing and repeating the track as if to stop hearing it would bring all the hurt rushing up to my head. Come Pick Me Up’s, ‘take me out, fuck me up’… I clung to this song on many nights like a raft floating through the lonely abyss. ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina what compels me to go’…Firecracker, Sylvia Plath, Answering Bell…a plethora of music to ache by.  For me, there was nothing else for days. And some of those days lasted for years. In short, if those songs weren’t allowed to roam the earth I don’t know what.  I seriously don’t.

So it seems almost ironic that he would become the next Hall of Shamer in regards to his private dealings with women. Right now though before we continue this much needed war on the misuse of power we definitely, most certainly need to put focus on the other silent victim, the art itself.

You want to hear my truth?  I don’t think the art is, was, or ever will be the guilty party.  Art needs some type of protective rights just like helpless babies and kittens, rescue dogs, the wild horses of Arizona, the tired, hangry polar bears.  The creator is not the art. This means something. I believe the division is crucial here.

If you rape or kill someone, you should go to jail and if you’re career is ruined, not my problem. I am very torn though over companies acting as judge and jury over anyone, as if they are a living breathing soul. I believe companies should put out art based on it’s value, not the artist’s virtuous standing.  If you make a killer song or record before, during or after a wrongdoing that work should be allowed it’s freedom, in my opinion.

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The actual art or product whether it be food, movies, paintings, music or songwriting, whatever the form, is very valuable to society and once formed can move, provoke, stimulate, inspire and heal, separate from it’s maker.  Some work even achieves greater heights. I have to say I consider the art form as the true precious commodity at stake here. Not that I don’t have deep compassion or serious empathy for anyone who falls victim to abuse.  Of course I do. But while all of us very imperfect humans try to work all this out we must consider the truly defenseless. Creativity sometimes comes out of our most deranged twisted folks. It comes out of pain, not only from the beautiful, happy people but lost idiots and damaged souls.  It’s the one good thing we do that separates us from all the other animals. Do we have to squash the work as well as the person? Throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak? For example, no one I speak to is surprised at all about the accusations because even though I adore so much of Ryan’s music, it was no secret in town years ago that his behavior was less than stellar as a regular human walking the planet.  He was an immature little punk with new money and a penchant for young girls. And his songwriting wasn’t always brilliant, but sometimes it was. I just read that based on written stories and an upcoming investigation his unreleased albums are now being squashed immediately including 2 on Blue Note Records. I get that it’s a smart business decision but are these companies really doing us a service? I also get the artist would be monetarily rewarded but support of the art is not condoning their private behavior.  If you see it that way, we’re going to need to drastically reduce our record collections. I can cringe hearing Ted Nugent’s political views but please crank that Stranglehold.  I don’t have the answers but there must be another way. After all, so much of that side of this argument is driven by the original hater, Mr. mean green himself, the almighty dollar.  And we all know he is not that sensitive, so we need to stop pretending companies have real hearts, accept that they are equally flawed and realize that pendulum could swing the other way one day.  I personally do not want to start being judged by Target or Citibank, or Whole Foods for my shoddy behavior. Plus why take away the one positive thing that we might get from all this ugliness and hurt? That’s the beauty, if this makes you want to exit the Ryan Adams train then it’s your God given right to do so and no one can take that privilege away unless we let them.   I just see us losing more freedoms if we start navigating creativity by some corporate-made moral compass.

 

The Guest List…with Cherophobiac

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Welcome to our newest blog addition, The Guest List, featuring playlists made by artists responsible for some of our favorite music this year, spotlighting the tracks that have inspired, crushed, and sustained them. Our latest playlist is from Alexandra Sullivan aka Cherophobiac who released one of THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2018 thus far,”Surgery”. Take it away girl…

“Hello World!
I’ve created a playlist for you called ‘d e s t r o y e r’ – and it’s full of songs that kill me/break my heart/offer me catharsis… and, generally, destroy me (in a good way!). I’ve worn these songs out listening to each of them over and over again, and they still remain the songs that make me feel the most. I tried to order them in a way that cycles through different layers of ‘destruction’ (and that sounded good to me).
Some songs from the playlist that are particularly close to my heart as I write this: ‘Erica Western Teleport’ by Emperor X (it has been for about three years), ‘Saturday Come Slow’ by Massive Attack (“Do you love me?”), ‘Over The Ocean’ by Here We Go Magic (the album that this song comes from, ‘A Different Ship,’ is probably my favorite album to date), ‘Siren Song’ by Bat For Lashes (this song is just about my definition of a ‘destroyer’), and ‘Advice’ by (Sandy) Alex G (it took me about two weeks to decide whether to include ‘Advice’ or ‘Change’ from his album ‘Trick’…)
I hope that you enjoy all of these songs as much as I do, and I hope that they destroy you as much as they destroy me.”
Here’s the playlist ! :
And here is the aforementioned album “Surgery”. Encourage you to check it out because honestly it’s pretty special.

 

 

The Guest List…with Mute Choir

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Welcome to our newest blog addition, The Guest List featuring playlists made by artists responsible for some of our favorite music this year, spotlighting the tracks that have inspired, crushed, and sustained them. Our latest playlist is from heavenly popmeister  Mute Choir , take it away Sam :

“Most of the music I love and am inspired by consists of one of two elements: raw honest great songwriting, and exploration and experimentation within the music that pushes the envelope. As a songwriter and a producer these are generally what really catches me. Every song and artist in this playlist to me contains either one or both of those traits.”

Here’s the Playlist ! :

And please take a listen below to the latest, lustrous offering from Mute Choir, “Minefield”…and hey, as an added bonus, reposting one of our faves,”Behind the Bars”  because it’s just such a beauty :

The Guest List…with Little Alien

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Welcome to our newest blog addition, The Guest List featuring playlists made by artists responsible for some of our favorite music this year, of tracks that have lit an eternal flame inside their hearts. Our latest playlist comes courtesy of our favorite manic-epic-pop-prog purveyor Little Alien ! Allow the man himself to shine a light on a few of his picks before you listen :

Kings of Leon “Arizona”: I appreciate this song for it’s beautiful soundscape created around a simple I-IV progression. The storytelling and the melodic bass are features of this era of Kings of Leon that I have always appreciated.

Renata Zeiguer “Wayside”: A relatively new release but it was the candor of the opening rhythm and the soul crushing dissonance of the third chord in the progression that instantly made this a classic in my eyes. 

Noname “Shadow Man”: Incredibly tender production and adept performance instrumentally speaking. The lyrical content is deep and the execution is superb by Noname, Saba and Smino (three of my favorite rappers).

Colour “Unicorns”: Colour’s entire “Anthology” is full of zany tunes with catchy hooks and eclectic rhythms. This album introduced me to math rock and heavily influenced many aspects of the Little Alien self-titled album. 

Hiatus Kaiyote “Building a Ladder”: An early live performance of this song introduced me to Hiatus Kaiyote and epitomized groove when I heard it for the first time. The harmonies are delicious and I’m attracted to the ambiguous and sometimes hard-to-perceive lyrics. 

Gang Starr “Moment of Truth”: In this tune, Guru offered deep heartfelt wisdom that speaks to me on many levels. The lyrics and monotone flow have stuck with me for years.

Time King “Main Street”: This song combines progressive rock with straight-up groove. It’s full of tasty harmonizations, catchy vocal melodies, and delightful interplay between the guitars and rock solid bass. It’s the whole package for me as a single. 

Marble Moon “Rosey Eyes”: The highlight of this song for me is the personal and prose-like lyrics that are delivered with strong and spirited vocals. The instrumentation seems to have been crafted with purpose and feels very meaningful in each section. Along with that, the dynamics of the song are drastic and impactful from beginning to end. The entire album is well worth listening to from beginning to end.

Tom Jobim & Elis Regina “Águas de Março”: This is possibly my favorite song of all time. The chords and instrumentation create a sense of continuous falling or similarly, a cascading waterfall or endless rain that is reflected in the lyrics. But even without understanding the lyrics it seems to me that you can take a lot away from this song and it immediately conveys a certain emotional state somewhere in between melancholy and rebirth. 

And now, the Playlist:

And hey, make sure to check out Little Alien’s exceptionally fine and crazy self-titled debut album if you haven’t yet ! Here it is ! :

 

The Guest List…with Scuba Dvala

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Welcome to our newest blog addition, The Guest List featuring playlists made by artists responsible for some of our favorite tracks this year. We are kicking things off with Scuba Dvala aka Fredrik Bergstrand who is responsible for one of the finest, most swoon-worthy pop songs of 2018, “Anthill”. And with that here is one truly plush and poptastic playlist. Take it away Fredrik…

“For this playlist, I wanted to limit myself to songs released in 2018. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know where to begin or end. It’s a good representation of what inspires me right now. Melodies are super important but I’m also drawn to the sounds, textures, and harmony. Music is escapism and that is probably why I love the dreamy stuff. I think this type of music is made by, and for introverts like me.”

And here is the wondrous “Anthill” if you haven’t checked it out yet ! :