On Prisoner, Ryan Adams’ tortured soul makes for the most compelling of listens. Every single emotion is laid bare in brutally honest and open lyrics, emotions are all too often magnified by the sparse arrangements that accompany them. When Adams’ soul seems to have found some kind of joy, however small, the listener hears it - and when Adams is hitting the very bottom of a pit of despair his guitar work amplifies those feelings. It’s this interplay between light and dark that lends an incredible amount of realism to Prisoner. If it were just 50 minutes of anguish, those low points wouldn’t really have the same effect, but by interjecting a tiny amount of hope into Prisoner and an element of recovery, the listener feels that sting so much harder.

That’s not to say that the hope Adams puts into Prisoner is so miniscule that its effect is minimal and is only evident when compared to the dark moments - far from it. There’s an authenticity to it, and when one considers the album’s context, you do get a very real sense of corners being turned in Adams’ mind, however short that feeling may last. Even the numbed, sort-of acceptance that characterises album closer ‘We Disappear’ provides a huge dose of emotion, in part because of the truthfulness in the eleven preceding tracks but also because Adams pours his soul into it.

This is why Prisoner is as good as it is. It’s full of layers and little emotions, rather than just being a slave to the bigger issues and emotions, and that’s what makes it authentic. Yes, it’s born from a broken heart, but Adams captures all the little things that go along with that and magnifies them. Prisoner isn’t an easy listen and it’ll provide all kinds of feels but after listening to it you’ll be glad you let Ryan Adams’ tale of anguish into your life.