Adams assembles a stunning scrapbook that captures heartbreak in an intimate array of snapshots, a collection that marks his most accomplished record since Heartbreaker.
Prisoner doesn’t differ enough from its recent predecessors to stand out as a singular mid-career achievement for the ever-prolific songwriter, but it’s one of Adams’ most fully-realized, sturdy collections to date, and quite possibly his finest record of the past decade.
He sounds like he’s savoring how full of life his music is, no matter what it took to make it so. He hasn’t just turned misery into art; he’s turned it into joy.
It’s been a while, though, since he served up a real, sit-up-and-listen statement. Here it is. Prisoner isn’t a heartbreak record - it’s potentially the heartbreak record, for my generation at least.
Prisoner is an album filled with Adams reconciling his doubts and fears about life and love with his faith in music and the power of song. And ultimately – thankfully – music wins out over heartbreak in the end.
Prisoner is an enveloping, painfully raw breakup album that may lack perspective but doesn't really need it in order to capture a compelling, intense portrait of one guy's troubled headspace.
Prisoner works well as a deep-winter heartbreak album, with acoustic guitars and ruminations on loss cutting through the cold air.
‘Prisoner’ isn’t quite up to the career-best standards of its predecessors, but it’s a remarkably focused and effective successor nonetheless.
Prisoner is an album that must have been tough for Adams to write and record, but ends up sounding like one of the great break-up albums of recent times.
Adams is not breaking new ground with Prisoner, but it seems churlish to quibble when he’s at the peak of his powers.
That's the charm of Prisoner: it's not a record that wallows in hurt, it's an album that functions as balm for bad times.
Prisoner is kind of like what Blood On The Tracks would have been if every song took its cue from “If You See Her, Say Hello.” Still great, but a bit one-note.
Stylistically the first half of the LP is the strongest but -rather like the imploding love that Prisoner chronicles — the album tails off after a strong start. Lyrically though, and as a view into Adams’ psychopathology, ‘Prisoner’ is nothing short of fascinating.
While certainly uneven, there’s no doubt Ryan Adams can spin jaded heartbreak into gold, or at least polished silver.
It’s a beautiful sounding collection, no question. Sometimes, though, Adams’ exacting, just-so approach to the sonics undercuts the power of his lyrics.
Adams’ voice is still the central vacuum to his records and he still has an infectious pull with melodies (both vocal and guitar) that ooze out of him like a bleeding heart here. It makes ‘Prisoner’ his finest standard release since 2005’s ‘29’.
Prisoner hears Adams embracing both his emotional growth and musical maturity, channelling that life experience into a clean, sharp and directly affecting sound.
Sometimes he can almost be too faithful to his heroes ... But when the songwriting feels as personal and urgent as the scholarship, he gets close to the magnum opus of his dreams.
It’s another down-the-middle, crowd-pleasing Ryan Adams record at a time when that crowd was expecting him to bring the heat.
While there are certainly flashes of brilliance, Adams is understandably at times so overwhelmed by his suffering that he’s unable to step outside of it.
Everything here is tailored to sustain a tone of desolate abjection, cauterised by the need to move on: it’s Adams’ own sad, solo trip into the Tunnel Of Love.