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Music Review: "The Beast in Its Tracks" by Josh Ritter

By Katelyn Harrop Entertainment Editor

Josh Ritter’s new album, "The Beast in Its Tracks," is a lyrical masterpiece, harkening back to the quality of writing exemplified in "The Historical Conquest of Josh Ritter," but woven with a level of emotion unheard of in any of Ritter’s previous creations.

The Idaho-born artist is also an accomplished author; his fantasy novel, "Bright Passages," earned a strong fallowing; he is a recognized guitarist; and was mentioned on Paste magazine’s "100 Greatest Living Songwriters" list. Ritter has never been accused of being anything other than well rounded, but "The Beast in Its Tracks" adds an additional level of complexity to the artist’s portfolio.

The album fallows Ritter’s recent divorce from musician Dawn Landes in a simplistic and often acoustic way that is uncharacteristic of Ritter’s work, which is usually supported by a strong band complete with the occasional horns section. It feels as if the album chronicles Ritter’s healing, with the instrumental section stepping to the side to allow him to mourn privately, but ready to reenter when he feels ready to be accompanied once again.

The lyrics of the first two tracks, "Third Arm" and "Evil Eye" are torn with anguish, longing, and passive-aggressive bitterness. Even in the third track, "Certain Light," which discusses a new lover, the lyrics still aches of lingering past feelings. The chorus reads: “And she only looks like you in a certain kind of light/ when she holders her head just right,” but go on to discuss Ritter’s newfound happiness.

By the time the album reaches “Joy to You Baby”, the lyrics turn to gracious and well meaning, and when he sings out, “joy to the city/ joy to the streets/joy to you,baby/ and joy to me too,” the listener can heave a sigh of relief, knowing that their favorite singer-songwriter is going to be okay.

"The Beast In Its Tracks" is unlike anything that Josh Ritter has ever released. His past albums have been dominated by fictitious stories and narratives combined with deep metaphors and imagery. But this album is raw and beautifully simplistic without sacrificing Ritter's strong poetic abilities.

Give this album a listen, as well as the rest of Josh Ritter’s works ff you enjoy Joe Pug, The Avett Brothers, Gregory Alan Isakov or The Decemberists.

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