Josh Ritter has a new album and I’m still confused as to what I really think of it. I’ve put it on repeat in my car and I don’t really know what to say. At times the album is absolute genius. The opening three tracks are solid from the instrumental opener Curtains, through the pop folk buildup of Change of Time, and continues into what is arguably the best song on the album (maybe even the best song released this year), track three The Curse. From this point on, unfortunately, the album takes random lefts and rights seemingly at will. It’s as if after writing three wonderful Josh Ritter songs he couldn’t figure out what he wanted to sound like for the remainder of the album.
It’s hard to love this album as a whole because it feels like Josh Ritter couldn’t decide on who he wanted to imitate on many of his songs. At times it feels like he’s borrowing from The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, the always present Bob Dylan, and on one track in particular (track seven, Lark) Josh literally sounds as if he’s Paul Simon. And while, on one hand, it’s great to incorporate past genius into our present day creative process, on the other hand it’s just as important to find our own voice. Ultimately this is what’s most confusing about this new album; Josh Ritter has done a great job of establishing himself as one of the preeminent singer/songwriters currently making music, and he did so by finding a modern folk sound that he owned, but on this album, at times, it feels as if he’s drifting away from himself.
mp3 : Josh Ritter – The Curse
If you get a chance to hear the entire album, So Runs The World Away (amazon) (itunes), listen specifically for the way that Josh continually drifts from one influence to another in a rather disconcerting way. Probably the most offensive of the transitions comes when the brilliant track The Curse segues into quite possibly the worst track on the album Southern Pacifica. Ultimately it’s a great album, possibly even a top ten album of the year, but it could have been brilliant if it was filled with Josh Ritter songs and not cluttered by his various ventures into aping other artists.