The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter's The Animal Years only came out a year ago. That he's followed up with something just as rich and deep that sounds nothing like it is a terrific feat. Where Animal rolled out its war laments via lush, pretty melodies, The Historical Conquests is a raucous but beautifully sung stomper, as if Springsteen had grown up in Idaho instead of Jersey. The opener, "To the Dogs or Whoever," begins with his voice fuzzy and buried, old-timey-like, until the drums bring him in as he speaks rapturously and vividly of his girl. "Mind's Eye" is a dark, deliberate warning to an enemy: "My day might be coming but yours is coming first/I'll knock you out of your daylight." "Right Moves" is a classic-rock radio song—cheery, violins and pianos high in the mix, catchy chorus. In fact, Sam Kassirer's production achieves what Rilo Kiley's new California Lite effort Under the Blacklight does not—sincerity. When Rilo apes an '80s standby like the Miami Sound Machine on "Dejalo," for instance, the effect is ironic, but not clever. Kassirer's mono sheen works with Ritter's songs because they are so much like the classic rock and country they nod to—narratives about love, failure, religion and drinking as filtered through a regular guy's eyes. Or a regular guy who keeps both a thesaurus and a distortion pedal kicking around.