Quintessential Album Tuesday :: Cardinology :: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals


Cardinology :: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
Quintessential Album Tuesday

A Little History:

Cardinology is the tenth studio album by Ryan Adams, and fourth album with his backing band, The Cardinals, released on October 28, 2008. The album completed Adams’ contract with Lost Highway Records, and marks his final recording session with The Cardinals. Following the album’s release and subsequent tour, Adams disbanded the band and entered a self-imposed hiatus until the release of Ashes & Fire, in 2011.

According to Adams, the album

[is] about the moment when you recognize the difference between ego and pride and your sense of service to your friends, family or yourself. Once you’ve had that epiphany, you can’t really turn around and pretend that you haven’t. It’s about accountability.”

The album was placed at # 14 on Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2008 list. The magazine also placed Magick at # 13 on the 100 Best Singles of 2008 list. The album has sold over 250,000 copies worldwide. In April 2011, Adams released an EP, Class Mythology, featuring four unreleased tracks recorded for Cardinology.

Cardinology was written and recorded in the aftermath of Adams’ break-up with girlfriend Jessica Joffe, with Adams stating,

There’s a lot of disappointment on this record. There’s the pain of lost love and the brutality of unrequited love. It was a dark place to go, but this time I managed to go there with a bit of balance. I tried to make sure there were at least one or two lines in every song that, should someone be listening who is having a bad time, there’s something there telling them to keep the faith. I wanted to find that hope. I didn’t fully find it, but I was trying.”

A vinyl version included a bonus 7″, a comic book, and a digital download code. The album’s first single, Fix It, was released on vinyl and online on September 23, 2008.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote, at AllMusic.com:

Sobriety agrees with Ryan Adams, giving him the one thing he’s always lacked: focus. Easy Tiger suggested as much, with its tight, clean lines supported by its rehab-celebrating publicity, but its 2008 sequel, Cardinology, reveals that this straight and narrow path was no new detour for Adams, but rather the main road. It’s the first time in his solo career that Adams has tread the same trail for two albums in a row, which only confirms the suspicion that now that Adams is sober, he’s getting down to the business of being the troubadour he’s always aspired to be, assisted by a band so sympathetic to his style that he’s named his album after them. In a certain sense, Cardinology does play as a showcase for everything that Ryan Adams & the Cardinals can do: it’s rooted in Deadsy country-rock but frequently strays into ’80s alt-rock territory, whether it’s the sighing, romantic Cobwebs or how Magick echoes like prime U2.

The Cardinals shift moods with ease but Cardinology isn’t quite a showcase for how the band plays — it’s too intimate and too concentrated on the songs to be a record about the group itself, nor is it about Adams’ range, as earlier records like Gold were. This is a very simple, classicist singer/songwriter album where the pleasure is within the songs themselves, how Born into a Light unfolds with understated grace, how Let Us Down Easy glides into its call-and-response chorus, how Natural Ghost has a comforting spectral quality, how Evergreen skips delicately, how the details in Sink Ships spill out to its loping beat. These are modest pleasures, but these days Ryan Adams is all about carefully measured craft instead of big statements, a tradeoff that makes his albums more predictable but also more satisfying, as Cardinology quietly proves.

What Makes This “Quintessential” In Three Sentences:

Some of the songs make my chest tighten up and my eyes sting with tears, some of the songs make me want to turn up the volume to its highest highs while driving to nowhere in particular, singing-a-long the entire way, and still some of the songs just settle into a vulnerable, secret place in my heart where so many of Ryan’s songs reside. Though this is not my # 1 favorite Ryan Adams’ album, it is in the top 5, and it also holds a strong place in a list of all-time favorite albums that I love from start-to-finish. More than many of the songs on this album have inspired characters and story arcs while I write, and are helping me greatly as I try to finish one of my two work-in-progress novels.

My Top 5 Favorite Songs

1. Go Easy

I will always love you, 
so go easy on yourself.”

2. Magick

Zombies running all around,
eventually we hit the mall,
knock it down at nightfall.”

3. Stop

If you wanna make it stop,
then stop.”

4. Crossed Out Name

I wish I could tell you just how I’m hurt.
Pinpoint the location,
it’s in another universe.”

5. Fix It

Look what I did to you,
look what you did to me.
Fixed it,
fix it,
I’d fix it if I could.”


6 thoughts on “Quintessential Album Tuesday :: Cardinology :: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

  1. Magick was such a great song on this album, out of all of the “Cardinals” albums this one and Cold Roses I always felt were his best. Interesting all of them have Heartbroken songs on them. I guess Ryan must of had tough time with love for a few years.

    1. He has had a rough go until recent years, both with addiction and relationships. I believe one of the women he loved died tragically, too. I love Cold Roses, too.

      My favorite Ryan album is Heartbreaker…but I love so much of his music.

      1. I like Heartbreaker as well, sometimes when he sings his songs hit to close to home and I have put him away for awhile. Lately he’s been on the shelf.

      1. I’ve seen him when he was in Whiskeytown. They were slightly drunk that night but a lot of fun to watch

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