Josh Ritter is amazing. I have thought so for years, so you can probably tell from that what sort of album review I’m about to write.
‘the beast in its tracks’ is a beautiful album, full of Ritter’s signature elegance and clever lyrics, though his amazing allegorical ballads are conspicuously absent from this release. He married fellow singer/songwriter Dawn Landes in 2009 and split with her….just before he started writing this album.
Instead of the storytelling songs like ‘the curse’ and ‘the temptation of adam’ (my personal favourite Ritter song, about a couple who live in a bunker safeguarding a nuclear weapon), these songs are straightforward. This is A Breakup Album and Ritter is telling it pretty straight, including the pathetic and sad bits. Furthermore, the album is more or less chronological (or could be), starting sad, becoming in turn vindictive and pathetic, and finally finishing on a note of acceptance with ‘Joy to You Baby,’ an absolutely lovely song that people took far too long to post guitar chords for.
The raw honesty of the album is most clearly revealed on ‘New Lover,’ with the lyrics:
I hope you’ve got a lover now, hope you’ve got somebody who
Can give you what you need like I couldn’t seem to do.
But if you’re sad and you are lonesome and you’ve got nobody true,
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me happy too.
In typical Josh Ritter fashion, these lyrics are delivered alongside a driving beat and a catchy melody, such that I didn’t notice until the third or fourth time just how…brutal…the lyrics were, and when I did, it was enough for me to say, out loud, ‘holy crap!’
Fortunately I was working from home so my coworkers didn’t have to share in this little revelation. In the videoclip below, the giant smile on his face obscures the punch of the lyrics, too;
The album has been out in the US, UK and Canada for about ten days, so I’m a little slow on the uptake; if you want more info, I recommend checking out NPR’s concert link from World Cafe; if you’re on the fence about the album – just go buy it. It’s wonderful.