The 29-year old Idaho native returns with his stunning new album. Following the independent release of "The Golden Age Of Radio" (2002) and "Hello Starling" (2003), Ritter was championed by critics in publications ranging from the NY Times to Details. On this, his V2 debut, Josh more than lives up to the buzz. "As a storyteller, Ritter is matched only by his lofty influences" - Pitchfork. "He approaches songwriting and performing with humility, respect, and unforced and unaffected honesty" - No Depression.
It can be a dangerous proposition when an artist decides to challenge himself. Ambition means precious little without the talent to back it up. Idaho's Josh Ritter needn't worry: he's willed himself to great heights on The Animal Years
, his fourth full-length and first for a major label. By combining his mysterious, knotty lyrics with straightforward melodies, nuanced, sensitive arrangements, and an unassuming vocal style, he's hit upon a spellbinding formula that confidently stretches the boundaries of folk music. Perhaps his most inspired move was in hiring producer Brian Deck, who's helped artists as diverse as Modest Mouse and Iron & Wine take great artistic leaps. Deck gives Ritter a huge, immediate, but not overwhelming presence, and he adds just the right touches--a gentle mandolin, an ominous piano, a swirling organ, marching drums--at just the right times. The album's centerpiece is the fire-and-brimstone "Thin Blue Flame," a slowly building, nearly 10-minute epic with a simple two-chord motif and portentous, surreal lyrical flurries. Throughout the album, Ritter's complex thoughts and observations about himself and the world at large--thick with literary references and religious imagery--seem sagely inconclusive; he revels in life's shades of gray, content to vividly describe what he sees and feels without hope or pessimism. Tender and reflective, haunting and unnerving, profound and unfathomable, The Animal Years
is a consistently compelling, finely crafted work. --Marc Greilsamer