I own three Josh Ritter albums, and I've listened to and enjoyed scattered tracks from Animal Years and The Golden Age of Radio. In truth, The Golden Age of Radio was purchased for the sole purpose of extracting sappy tracks for mixtapes. Animal Years, in contrast, contains the perfect protest song, "Girl in the War." There is nothing explicitly political about the song, and it's not nearly as dark or eerie as anything done by John Vanderslice, the master of paranoiac, cinematic Iraq-obsessed music. Rather, "Girl in the War" is sweet and affecting, and it turns on a reversal that while not uncommon is certainly rooted in reality: a boyfriend or husband praying for the safe return of his girlfriend or wife from the war.
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 the only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through
When this song came out, it knocked me on my ass. The album did not. Apart from the festive screwball of "Lillian Egypt," nothing else came close. All the same, I enthusiastically recommended the album to friends, including our very own Ross Douthat.
While training from Washington to New York on Friday, I passed the time reading The Abstinence Teacher (more on that later) and listening to Ritter's latest, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. From beginning to end, the album is near-flawless, assuming you like this sort of twangy, jangly music. (Which I do, despite the part of me that mocks the rest of me for this sad fact.)
If for whatever reason you are reluctant to buy the entire album, I recommend "To The Dogs or Whoever," "Mind's Eye" (which sounds slightly Spoonish, and incidentally it seems that Spoon the band has displaced spoon the utensil according to Google, which is saying something), "The Temptation of Adam," "Open Doors," "Real Long Distance," and "Empty Hearts."