Monday, April 26, 2010

Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away

Josh Ritter is one of the best songwriters of our generation. He weaves tales of exploration and growth, strife and love, and he stitches them with details so miniscule that every character is a living, breathing apparition. Whether he’s basking in alt-country folk (2002’s Golden Age of Radio) or rock-driven melodies (2007’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter), the Idaho-born folk artist explores his worldly curiosities through poetic lyricism and impeccable songcraft. Ritter claims So Runs the World Away has been his most difficult album, and it sure sounds like his most diverse. In the haunting, starkly percussive “Rattling Locks,” Ritter barks, “I’d rather spend another night in hell” as his band creates heat and tension that seem to creep up from the floor of the desert. “Lark” and “Lantern” find Ritter exploring a different mindset – a hopeful one – and more of a cheerful pop mentality. But the best by far is “The Curse,” a touching tale of an archeologist’s love affair with a mummy. Its surrealistic fiction awes with its beauty, and in the five minutes, you actually grow attached to their tragic relationship. Every song is a separate story, inspired by everything from bird hibernation and the golden ratio to Newton’s studies. Individually, they impress. As an album, however, So Runs the World Away lacks the cohesion of Ritter’s past works. It’s hard for the listener to transition from a traditional folk tune like “Folk Bloodbath” to “Lark” without skipping a beat. With so much to take in, listeners might find the album as challenging as Ritter did when he created it. Still, nobody ever said that good music wasn’t worth working for.

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