I bought Josh Ritter's latest work. I had bought his last album, The Animal Years, last year after an experience with the song Wolves. I thought that it was a really great album, and one that surprised me by growing on me with time.
His latest album, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, arrived a few days ago in the mail, courtesy of the lovely folks over at Amazon. I was instantly taken by the arrogant title and album art. I cracked it open and threw it on in my car. As soon as the first words hit (deep in the belly of the whale I found her / down with the deep blue jail around her) I knew I was in for something special. There is something very loose and free about the music. Opening up the CD booklet, I started skimming the lyrics before even listening to the respective songs. To steal an image from Bob Dylan, the words were pouring off the page like they were written in my soul. The poetry of the lyrics was apparent even before hearing them put to music. Even from a quick skimming.
Art should transcend its physical limitations. Music should be more than words and chords and notes. It should be emotion realized. It is for this reason that Madame George can move me so thoroughly despite the fact that I don't know what it is about.
Before I wax too complimentary of this album, let me ground myself. I realize that this is a pop album. It's fun. The songs are catchy and whimsical. Yet, when I first listened to this album I was completely caught up in it. I think Mr. Ritter captured a moment, an emotional spectrum that, though fun, is such an impressive feat to accomplish that it merits the strongest words of praise. And there is depth and pathos and struggle laced throughout the work that should not be overlooked.
I called Little Gun up and said something stupid about the first listen to the album being like someone throwing on Born to Run in 1975. I have since retracted this statement because Born to Run is a tight 8 track album while this is a little scruffier. Maybe it's more like a first listen to Highway 61 Revisited in 1965.
The Temptation of Adam is the standout song in this collection. In it, Josh writes:
Then one night you found me in my army issued cot and you told me of your flash of inspiration
You said fusion was the broken heart that's lonely's only thought
And all night long you drove me wild with your equations
Explaining fusion, the key (I believe) to the most dangerous weapon yet conceived of, in such a human way is remarkable. And somehow it makes sense that even at the most basic, molecular level of the universe, the desire for and frustration due to love is present.
This is a beautiful work. I'm not even going to post a track -- you need to own this entire album.