Josh Ritter
The Animal Years
(V2)
You may remember Josh Ritter as the man who nearly usurped Sarah Harmer at her own damn show at the Cohn in September of 2004, with his soaring voice and songs that played like short stories. The record he was touring then was the underrated folk-pop gem Hello Starling. The record he will tour next month—Ritter hits Stage Nine on April 11—bests his sophomore effort in every possible way. The Animal Years sounds bigger in the bombastic parts and more intimate in the quiet moments. The tales are woven with a distinctly political bent, and Ritter’s pleasant, amiable voice gets caught on angrier edges. The captivating, slow-moving opener, “Girl in the War,” presents the two themes Ritter’ll revisit throughout, love and conflict. The biggest achievement is “Thin Blue Fame,” (9:38!) which took him more than a year to write. It begins with Ritter seemingly starting before the band is ready, and then the drums come storming in. It presents a complex, angry, referential narrative worthy of a film, critical of religious justification for battle: “They’re guilty when killed and they’re killed where they’re found/If what’s loosed up on earth is loosed up on high/It’s a Hell of a Heaven we must go to when we die.” Records this thoughtful are rarely so free of pretense. Seek Josh Ritter out —his music will make your life better.
—Tara Thorne
categories: Coast pick

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