The Crickets Lept Up and Met the Moon With a Standing Ovation

Album Review:

Josh Ritter- “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter”
Not song by song, but certain songs are analyzed.

Ritter’s ’06 effort “Animal Years” was one of my favorites of last year. It crept up and snagged my soul out of nowhere, and is a classic to me now. He’s the real deal!

On to the tracks…

“To the Dogs or Whatever” is a great folk story song in the vain of Dylan or Springsteen. The tempo is that of a rail car clicking along the tracks in the middle of the night. Yep, it’s a foot tapper!! It’s got imagery to compete with any artist/ storyteller/ poet or liar… it’s pure songwriting and lyrical goodness here. The spit-fire delivery of his vocals couples well with the songs pace, making for an enjoyable and melodic jaunt through a cacophony of noise- good noise!

“Minds Eye” is an eerie proclamation of a guy who has his mind set on something- or maybe even someone. This track moves at its own deliberate pace- it’s got its fits and starts, and has a low key and plodding approach, which is memorable if for nothing else than its stark contrast to the album opener. A great atmospheric track, which shows the melancholy way a soul can display its intentions.

“Right Moves” is one of the best songs on the disc. it has a 70’s pop/ 80’s country feel to it, (which if thought to much about may even ruin the songs impression) and just feels good and right. It’s a sing-along tune for sure, one that will get stuck in your head. Lyrics such as Am I making all the right moves/ Am I singing you the right blues/ Is there a chance that I could call you/ Just to see how you are doing? let you into the train of thought here… it’s a love song seemingly told from a hopeful love, a lost lover, a lover’s memory, or even a heartbroken fool. Either way, it’s a great sounding folk/ pop song that will surely make your mood lighten.

“Rumors” makes you immediately want to think back to 70’s era Fleetwood Mac, but once the music starts you’ll throw that idea directly out the nearest window. There’s some nice Billy Joel piano and moody horns that set this creepy mood- the songs strong point for certain. Lyrically, there’s a lot to like here…. Mr. Ritter takes you from questions to statements and back again; all the while painting a bleak picture with images and lyrcis like
And the string section’s screaming/ Like horses in a barn burning up and
He’s impaling the front row/ Fighting fires with arrows /And he’ll act like he forgot you /But the music’s never loud enough
Seems like the message here is about pumping ones own chest, not giving way to a contender, and eschewing all notions of a humble creator… a complete deviation from what Ritter has shown himself to be. Here’s where Josh gets down to business and just plain rocks- complete with allegory, hyperbole, and “made up stuff”!

A beautiful little instrumental follows called “Edge of the World”. This is set perfectly at the mid point of this disc, setting apart all the intended imagery, emotion, and mood… letting the listener carefully create his own allusions to a far away place. It’s light, it’s got legs if need be, and it’s sweet to the ears.


I’ll save the rest of the individual tracks for you to figure out and explore/ enjoy/ review/ decide! This album really brings it musically. There’s a sonic experience here for everyone- from hard hitting and poignant Dylan-esque jibber-jabber; to 70’s era glam-pop; all the way to soft whispering sensitive folk music. This characterization may lend itself to a chaotic and scattered pace and thought, but Ritter proves otherwise. His talent and knack for crafting a song shines through- it’s all refined here, there’s no area left un-perfected. This aspect has been called Ritter’s Achilles in the past, with detractors pointing to his perfectionist mentality and “all too smooth and refined” quality of craftsmanship that leaves the songs sounding hallow and cold. I disagree with these retorts on premise alone- I’m not about to chastise an artist for being too good!

Give it a listen, you’re sure to be delighted. I’ve found myself lost in the sentimentality of some of the tracks, while also banging my fists on the steering wheel in exhilaration of others. It’s these swift changes in pace and style that really appeal to me, and I believe it’ll be those same qualities that will appeal to others as well.

So there ya have it, my review of- at this point- my favorite album of 2007. There’s been a few challengers, and there’s sure to be more. There’s been some sleepers as well, such as Saul Williams’
The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust.” A few more sleepers include:
Aesop Rock- “None Shall Pass”
El-P- “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
Shane Nicholson- “Faith and Science”
The National- “Boxer
Arcade Fire- “Neon Bible
….and a few others….

Ok, I’m out….
AM Son


One Response to “The Crickets Lept Up and Met the Moon With a Standing Ovation”

  1. […] Runner up, and with strong consideration was Josh Ritter’s “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter”- of which you can read my earlier review here. […]

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