Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Release Date: August 21, 2007
Record Label: Sony Music Group/Victor
Usually only once or twice a year, an album comes along, trailing behind it a robust passion for music, an appreciation for the legends of the genre, and above all, the ability to capture the hearts and minds of all those who listen. In 2007, that album is without a doubt Josh Ritter's The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. Ritter walks the same traveling minstrel line as Springsteen and the Man in Black himself, producing songs that go far beyond a simple entertainment factor. Many critics believed Josh Ritter might never top his heavily-praised release from seventeen months before, The Animal Years. Switching musical styles quite noticeably, Ritter instead chose to blow the doors off of his earlier work.
The talented singer-songwriter from Idaho wastes no time enthralling his audience with the album's opener, “To the Dogs or Whoever,” a stream of consciousness as much as anything else. Ritter hardly takes a breath between his vibrant, visual lyrics, which stand out throughout The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. Despite his unorthodox delivery, the song will bounce around in your head for hours. Listeners definitely won't pick up all of Ritter's varied allusions upon first listen; this album will likely take a few listens before they will begin to fully appreciate its lyrical and musical depth. “Right Moves” is a personal favorite—a catchy blues-inflected track featuring enough strings to fill an orchestra (the violin parts are nearly electrifying), and the use of a shimmering organ to punctuate this fantastic song.
The next two tracks take a completely different, at times minimalistic approach (at compared to the rest of this record, which largely works on the “bigger is better” principle). “The Temptation of Adam” and “Open Doors” have different strengths; the former, Ritter's painful honesty, the latter, his ability to write one hell of a hook. “Rumors” is another favorite, an indulgent track in which a cheeky Ritter remarks, “My orchestra is gigantic/this thing could sink the Titanic.” He uses the orchestra effectively, painting a very memorable vivid soundscape; it would not be out of place on a movie soundtrack. Following a lush instrumental is “Wait for Love,” which does not feel like it brings the same passion to the album as some of the other songs.
“Real Long Distance” gets the listeners' feet stomping just in time for Ritter to lead into his heavily Cash-influenced “Next to the Last Romantic,” which bounces along atop some very effective drumbeats. “Still Beating” kind of falls into the same category as “Wait for Love,” except with much stronger lyrics. Regardless, “Empty Hearts” is the show-stopper near the very end with its infectious chorus, especially considering the album ends with a shorter reprise of “Wait for Love.”
Josh Ritter's lyrics really are something to behold, and this album takes advantage of his curiosity as a songwriter. The tracks really don't blend together, and that allows them to stay fresh in the minds of listeners. If you only pick up one album from someone who falls into the singer-songwriter category this year, make sure it is The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. It is a fantastic album with something for everyone as Ritter explores a number of varying styles and all with an admirably vibrant and deft touch that you need to experience for yourself.
This guy is truly wonderful. Honestly, one of my friends told me to listen to him yesterday, so I hit up his myspace page and instantly loved it all, so I went out and bought his last two cds. Whoever hasn't heard Girl in the War off his The Animal Years album is missing out.
The Historical Conquests... album definitely kicks off with one of my favorite songs thus far, "To the Dogs or Whoever", which catchy-johnny cash-like vocals. "Open Doors", "Wait for love" are also two other great ones, and I don't know why, but I really like "Next to the last romantic".
If you haven't heard this guy, imagine an up tempo bright eyes on some tracks mixed with johnny cash and bob dylan on others...he's wonderful, and everyone should pick this cd up.
This album is incredible...I totally agree with the review that it doesn't hit you all at once (I had to listen to The Temptation of Adam a few times itself just get a grasp on it). I got into his music a few years ago with Hello Starling and I encourage anyone who appreciates music to give this a try...for sure in my top five this year so far.
That's way to high of a rating. I truly believe that "The Dead will walk Dear" by The National Lights fits much better into the description in the first part of your first paragraph. I couldn't disagree more about the tracks not blending together. At the end of the day, there's nothing about Ritter that really stands out, at least, to me.