April 21, 2010

Josh Ritter and His Epic New Album

Throughout Josh Ritter's brief but impressive career he's always been a few things: a proficient songwriter, an impeccably detailed storyteller, and a restrained but gifted guitarist and singer. But never before have his songs been fitted with a sonic landscape as lush and complex as those on So Runs The World Away.

There's a true progression going on in Ritter's music: from his Townes Van Zandt-esque acoustic-centered first records to the political and deeply philosophical Animal Years and the unabashedly rollicking pop follow up The Historical Conquest of Josh Ritter, the artist is an already renowned talent that's clearly pushing and reaching for something great.

With So Runs The World Away, he's certainly gotten a hold of something. There are few intimate moments here and definitely no carefree songs about drinking underneath the trees. This record instead screams "epic." Ritter puts it best himself: "I think of the songs on So Runs The World Away like pictures painted in oil on large canvasses. It's a record preoccupied with the extremes of scale, from infinitesimal particles to the nearly incomprehensible distances between the head of a pin and a nebula. Where the songs felt large to me, I wanted them to be huge, both musically and lyrically. I wanted them to feel like the steel hulls of massive ships sliding by deeply from below. Where they were small, I concentrated in on the smallest details that I could and we tried to make the music and the words work together. I love writing, and this was the most fulfilling record I've yet written."

With female backup singers, dissonant guitar noises, and seas of percussion this could easily be an overproduced mess—a common result when intelligent artists reach a certain level of success. But with Ritter's 6th full-length, there are no missteps. It's a gorgeous album, as thoughtful as it is beautifully performed. But will the general public bite?

Josh Ritter - "Change of Time" (from So Runs The World Away)
Josh Ritter - "Kathleen" (4 Songs Live EP)

Josh Ritter


  1. Can't wait to hear it!

    I've been following Ritter's development with much the same admiration for his continued evolution toward making use of a wider and wider canvas - that's amusing that he uses the same imagery, in describing his movement from pencil, or charcoal (acoustic ballads) to the more elaborate works of late (experimentation with the fuller sound of a backing band, strings, backup singers, and the like) - and am glad to hear that he hasn't faltered in continuing to develop a sound that is beautiful, personal, and all the more his own.

    His live shows, I tell my students, make it impossible not to love him - as a musician or a human - no matter your gender. And with another link in the chain of his career established, I can't wait for the next one (having already seen him play a local playhouse by himself, and a downtown Vancouver ballroom with his band following "The Historical Conquest...").

    Thanks for the preview!

  2. I've only seen him live once, but I agree, it makes him impossible not to like. He was smiling from ear to ear the whole night, unable to contain how happy he was to be there playing music.