I Meant To Listen To: Josh Ritter, “The Animal Years”

For the first (and hopefully, not the last) time, I was suggested that I listen to something. If self-imposing listening to albums were challenging, this was going to be a whole new undertaking. Am I up for it? Of course I am! I’m still completely floored someone recommended an album for me.

One recent afternoon I found myself bellied-up at my favorite brewery. One of the servers (let’s call him Steve, because that’s his name) really likes to put his fingerprints on the atmosphere there by constantly altering what music is playing. I love it because its something that I would do, much to the dismay of the customers and the people working there. In fact, on certain late nights, I do get the privilege of playing music there, however, my selections there are hovering the Mendoza Line.

But Steve? He’s pretty good at it. On this particular afternoon after listening to OutKast’s ATLiens, he put on a significantly slower album on. Two or so songs later, he asks me how I’m feeling it. I nodded and how him I liked it put didn’t know who it was. Stunned, Steve tilted his head, uttered the word “dude…” and scribbled the name and album that I must listen to.


So here we are!

I have been listening to the album for the better part of the week and I must say that The Animal Years is absolutely beautiful. The perfect balance of folk and pop sensibilities are on display here, and that’s what made this really enjoyable. Sometimes, I can only handle so much folkiness, so to have songs with hooks and rock and pop elements up front help me out personally.

Right from the beginning, The Animal Years is a moving album with a lush sweeping sound. Even in its quieter, minimalistic moments, there is a sense of fullness in the music. While some tracks are more downtrodden and, dare I say, sad, it leads itself into more melodic and active songs. Tracks such as “In The Dark” and “Good Man” feel as though they would be best played while behind the wheel during a nice, long road trip.

One of the more shining examples is the song “Thin Blue Wire“, a 9-minute epic journey about one’s faith. Like the symbolic angel on one’s shoulder and the devil on the other, Ritter performs the song like Ben Gibbard and Craig Finn are on his shoulders whispering in his ears.

The Animal Years is an extremely versatile album. It’s a perfect fit whether you’re making brunch on a lazy Sunday morning, walking around town with your hoodie on and your earbuds in, or even having it playing while you are having a beer and reading a book. I am extremely grateful that someone took the time and suggested this album to me. Josh Ritter is now going to be a part of my rotation and I am looking forward to diving further into his catalog.

Thanks, Steve!

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