Ranking the Album: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals’ Cold Roses

A return to nature to sort through and celebrate 10 years of Cold Roses

Ryan Adams

    Ranking the Album is a feature in which we take an iconic or beloved record and dare to play favorites. It’s a testament to the fact that classic album or not, there are still some tracks we root for more than others to pop up in our shuffles. Today, in honor of it recently turning 10, we rank the tracks of Ryan Adams & The Cardinals’ sprawling double LP, Cold Roses, from worst to best.

    When Senior Editor Matt Melis asked me to rank Cold Roses, I was a little hesitant about the idea. This is one of my favorite records of all time, and like any record worth its weight in vinyl, it functions best when listened to front to back as a complete work. But the more I thought about the proposal, the more it excited me. I had already written extensively about the album back in 2011, so why not tackle it in a more lighthearted fashion? Also, weighing the songs individually against one another revealed some patterns in Cold Roses that I had never noticed before, most notably the idea of nature serving as the connective tissue of romance and spirituality (we’ll talk a lot more about that in a bit).

    Thinking back on Cold Roses’ release in 2005, it was heralded as a twangy return to form for Adams, who had flirted with mainstream success on Gold, balked at record execs with the exhaustively depressing Love Is Hell, then given them the finger with the more “radio friendly” Rock n Roll. Although I personally love the latter two records, music critics weren’t wrong when they called Cold Roses Adams’ best work since his 2000 solo debut, Heartbreaker. But as time has passed, I’ve realized its validity goes beyond it just being catchier and more country. It’s become special to me for some very specific reasons that I’ll get into, just like I’m sure it’s become special to others for completely different reasons. As a result, my ranking is proudly biased. And now, I ask you a very important question: What’s your ranking? Let us know in the comments.

    Dan Caffrey
    Senior Staff Writer



    Disc Number: 1

    Track Number: 6

    Like pretty much every Ryan Adams record, a lot of Cold Roses is about being left by a loved one. But where most of the tracks filter that through a pastoral Carolina setting, “Now That You’re Gone” has a lonesomeness that’s pretty bland by Adams’ standards. It’s also the slowest song on the album, which doesn’t help. Purdy? Yes. Essential? No.

    Audubon Society (mentions of plants and animals): Surprisingly, none — a trait that only adds to the lack of lyrical specificity.


    Written in a Language That Was Meant to Fuck You Up (saddest lyric): “I’m alone and I’m dancin’/ With you now in your old room/ But there’s nobody there”


    Disc Number: 2

    Track Number: 8

    As much as I appreciate Cold Roses’ late-in-the-game Hail Mary of optimism, Adams gets more than a bit clunky with his constant stream of positive metaphors: “You build a house, and if the house comes up/ You gotta work on that house/ If you want to make it your home” isn’t just redundant — it sounds like a Home Depot commercial.


    Audubon Society: A sole metaphorical rose

    …A Language That Was Meant to Fuck You Up: “‘Cause if I don’t believe in love/ Then I don’t believe in you/ And I do” works so well because it makes you think it’s going to bring the waterworks. Then at the last second, it takes a turn for the uplifting.

    16. BLOSSOM

    Disc Number: 2

    Track Number: 7

    My reason for ranking “Blossom” so low is subjective, but hey, so is this entire list. Ever since Strand of Oaks put out a similar-sounding song last year, the two blend together in a way that’s maddening to me. To be fair, they’re both great tunes in their own right, and Adams released his long before Timothy Showalter did. But when you’re ranking every song on a record you love, you have to turn to some pretty strange justifications.


    Audubon Society: Outside of the title, we get Wildwood trees and a hurricane rose. I’m not sure if those are actual plants, but they sure sound nice.

    …A Language That Was Meant to Fuck You Up: “Without anyone to hold you/ What will you blossom into?/ Without anyone to hold you/ How will you grow?”

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