Animal Years

The Animal Years

4.6 3
by Josh Ritter
     
 

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This Idaho-bred singer-songwriter makes no secret of the fact that he was inspired to pick up a guitar after hearing Bob Dylan for the first time. Unlike most folks for whom Zimmy was a catalyst, however, Ritter seldom comes off as slavish or xerographic when churning out his own tunes. On this, his third full-length, Ritter sounds much more

Overview

This Idaho-bred singer-songwriter makes no secret of the fact that he was inspired to pick up a guitar after hearing Bob Dylan for the first time. Unlike most folks for whom Zimmy was a catalyst, however, Ritter seldom comes off as slavish or xerographic when churning out his own tunes. On this, his third full-length, Ritter sounds much more self-assured than he has in the past, though he hasn't sacrificed his compelling vulnerability -- as evidenced by the sparse, spooky "Idaho," which tells the tale of a man wandering the blue highways of the plains with only ghosts for company. A similar wistfulness imbues many of The Animal Years' more affecting tracks -- such as "Girl in the War," a pins-and-needles allegory that waltzes timelessly on a melody driven by a gentle ukulele line -- but the disc isn't draped entirely in darkness. "Lillian, Egypt," for instance, melds loping piano and acoustic guitar lines into a landscape that would likely draw a knowing nod from Levon Helm, whose rustic tenor is recalled in Ritter's ragged-but-right delivery. The overall tone of The Animal Years is beautifully burnished -- just check out the Hammond organ waves that wash over "Monster Ballads" -- which might have something to do with the sympathetic production of Brian Deck (who played in the late, lamented Red Red Meat before launching a studio career that's seen him work with artists like Modest Mouse). But in the end, it's Ritter's capacity for songcraft -- not to mention his instantly winning personality -- that makes The Animal Years so pleasant to relive and so moving to experience.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Christopher Monger
Idaho-bred singer/songwriter Josh Ritter's V2 Records debut follows in the footsteps of 2003's Hello Starling only in instrumentation. While he retains his literate tongue and expressive voice, there is far less humor on Animal Years than on his previous two outings. Producer Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse) keeps Animal Years intimate but transient, like a circus train crawling through a small town on a busy Saturday afternoon. Essentially built around two startlingly affecting diatribes on the war in Iraq, Ritter utilizes the voices of Peter and Paul, as well as Laurel & Hardy, to eke some kind of explanation from both the Administration and the Creator. The first, the deceptively sweet-sounding "Girl in the War," threatens "The angels fly around in there, but we can't see them/I got a girl in the war, Paul I know that they can hear me yell/If they can't find a way to help her they can go to Hell." The second, "Thin Blue Flame," is a nearly ten-minute rant that follows the Velvet Underground "Heroin" arc of tinder to spark to full-on blaze in a way that hasn't worked for anyone in a long time, but most certainly does here. The other cuts never reach the same heights, but standouts such as "Wolves," with its sunrise gallop and "Whole of the Moon"-era Waterboys piano, and the languid "Monster Ballads" soar only inches beneath them. [A Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition of Animal Years was reissued in 2011 that included a bonus disc featuring Ritter performing the entire album acoustic. It also included four live B-sides, two videos, and new liner notes from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Ricks.]
New York Times - Jon Pareles
Love and war, faith and music, restlessness and a longing for home pervade his new songs, which might turn pretentious if they weren't so grounded in folky melody.
Los Angeles Daily News - Emmanuelle Soichet
Ritter may not quite be Dylan yet, but he's getting close.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/11/2011
Label:
Edge J26181
UPC:
5033197369884
catalogNumber:
36988
Rank:
333660

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The Animal Years 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent album. Josh Ritter uses language and music in a way that will absolutely speak to your soul and rattle every deep corner in it but with a comforting, home-like feeling. You'll treasure this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago