Archive for the ‘Josh Ritter’ Category

This is the eighth installment of a weekly collection of the “latest and greatest.” I post two newly discovered songs that have captured my attention and two of my longtime (word of warning, this will be a relative term) favorite songs that are building up dust in my music library.


King and Lionheart by Of Monsters and Men

Though their full-length debut album, My Head Is an Animal is not due out in the United States until next year, Of Monsters and Men has already created enormous buzz, and deservedly so. KEXP recorded and streamed their fantastic set at Iceland Airwaves. This six-piece folk-pop group from Reykjavik, Iceland adds a unique, but naturally fitting sound to my music catalog. I was immediately drawn to their male/female vocals and golden harmonies. Of Monsters and Men received initial acclaim for the catchy lyrics and upbeat tempo of their debut single, Little Talks. And while I have loved every song that I have streamed endlessly on youtube, King and Lionheart strikes a chord within me. It is some combination of Nanna’s soft, pitch-perfect voice, which reminds me of a less-whiney Regina Spektor, feel-good instrumentals and haunting, mythical lyrics that makes the tune impossible to resist.

Howling ghosts they reappear
In mountains that are stacked with fear
But you’re a king and I’m a lionheart.

Way You Are by Kris Orlowski

I’ve been listening to Kris Orlowski’s recently released EP Warsaw for several weeks now and have been trying to find the right words to describe it. There is something about Kris’ deep, solemn voice in Way You Are—calming, almost entrancing. I’ve heard some call this Seattle-based group “folk-pop”, but somehow I don’t think this label fits. While Kris was accompanied by strings on his last EP, The Fremont Abbey, Kris’s soulful voice stands alone on Warsaw. The result is a somewhat darker set of tunes, with a slow-building, earthy force.

Love the way it sounds
the moments your with me
Like soft wind brushing waves
across the sea.


Change of Time by Josh Ritter

I’ve shared my love for Josh Ritter and his prolific songwriting and musicality on this blog before. And last Monday night, I was reminded of the joy he exudes when he was a special guest at the WFUV Holiday Cheer Concert at Beacon Theatre. Ritter took the stage—with simply his guitar in hand and smile on his face—after fantastic, energetic sets by Dawes and The Head and The Heart. With only three songs—Change of Time, Sir Galahad and Snow is Gone—he managed to “wow” the crowd. Ultimately, my favorite song was Change of Time, which showcased Ritter’s skillful fingerpicking and artful turns of phrase.

I was thirsty so I drank
And though it was salt water
There was something ’bout the way
It tasted so familiar.

King of Spain by The Tallest Man on Earth

On the subject of incredible guitar players (and Europeans…), I recently unearthed The Tallest Man on Earth’s 2010 album The Wild Hunt. After weeks spent reflecting on 2011 releases, I decided to return to some of the fantastic, but neglected albums in my catalog. Kristian Matsson’s gruff vocals and intricate acoustic guitar—the simple elements that create his revival folk music—shine through in King of Spain.

Well if you could reinvent my name,
Well if you could redirect my day,
I wanna be the King of Spain.

Below, he performs King of Spain live on KEXP.


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So tomorrow, for the first time since I graduated in May, I will be returning to Amherst College for homecoming. Now for some this might seem insignificant; but for me, it is a going home of sorts. A place I called home and found the strongest of communities for four years. I anticipate a lot of feelings (probably even a reenactment of the Garden State scene where you realize that life goes on in your absence). But mostly, I will arrive and depart with nostalgia.

In the mission of finding music to match your mood, Josh Ritter fits mine like a glove. I have had more than one person tell me that Josh Ritter is one of the best songwriters of our generation. After careful and close consideration, I wholeheartedly agree.

I was only recently introduced to Josh Ritter’s music, after agreeing to see him at the House of Blues in Boston with one of my closest friends. She has wonderful taste in music, so despite never having heard him, and without hesitation, I said yes. I proceeded to get my hands on every album of his I could find and get busy listening. And boy has he made a mighty big fan out of me!

His folk sound floats between Paul Simon, Ryan Adams and Bob Dylan. But what impresses me most is his songwriting. Ritter’s music reaches new depths of lyrical creativity. He has fed his monster (or muse) well. My favorite lines come from Kathleen, a song on his 2003 album Hello Starling. While the song is surely about a one-night stand, he manages to capture some of the most beautiful lyrics about love and its complications. The opening line grabs you (and potentially makes you blush): “All the other girls here are stars / you are the Northern Lights.” Later in the song, he delivers the perfect metaphor for the complications and results of love: “Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied.”

I am most enthralled with Animal Years, Ritter’s 2006 album. From start to finish the album is drenched with beautiful melodies, extended metaphors, and songs that will shake you to the core. I’ve never played an album and found myself listening so closely to each note, each word. Here are some of my favorites:

Girl in the War opens with the crisp sound of the guitar and is immediately complemented by Ritter’s deep voice. The drumbeat picks up in the second part of the verse and throughout the song background vocals take over. The lyrics engulf you as you try to make sense of them: “Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder / Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire / But I got a girl in the war Paul her eyes are like champagne / They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain.”

Good Man is easily the happiest and catchiest melody on the album, from the first note on the piano. “I fell in love with your sound / Oh I love to sing along with you / Babe we both had dry spells Hard times / in bad lands I’m a good man for ya I’m a good man.”

Josh Ritter is my coming home.


[Side note: When I told a friend of mine that I was going to a Josh Ritter concert she said to me, “You’re going to think that he is on ecstasy. But he’s not. He’s just that happy.” I have never seen someone look happier on stage in my life. Refer back to the image at the top of this blog.]

[Side note #2: In the spirit of college and free stuff, for a short time only Josh Ritter has made available (for free) a high quality recording of his March show at KCD Theater in Louisville, KY. Noise Trade is also giving away a free sampler which includes some great songs.]

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