The Best Songs of 2010: #4: “Another New World” by Josh Ritter

27 Dec

A Mutant 4

I feel like my own world has been pummeled…by snow. Around 18 inches of white stuff has fallen on western Long Island and despite numerous shoveling adventures yesterday, I was out there again this morning clearing off my driveway. Well, it is good exercise and there is no way I will be making it to the gym this afternoon. The snow actually falls at a good time (for selfish reasons of course). The song I am highlighting today has much to do with arctic conditions.

We travel on a maritime voyage for the #4 song of 2010.

Artist: Josh Ritter

Song: “Another New World”

Thus begins the final four. I think of these four songs as #1 seeds in the March Madness College Basketball Tournament. There were no upsets. These are the cream of the crop. But, unfortunately I cannot let these songs duke it out. It is not like all four are exploring the same genre. That would make my life a lot of easier. It is a rarity, but the top four of 2010 are all different. The diversity is exciting. It proves to me that musicians are still able to produce excellent songs in various genres. “Another New World” falls at four. On a different day it may have been one. I had a tough time picking between the four songs that will profiled in the next couple of days, but I believe I made the correct choices. Though, please understand that these songs on many levels are on equal footing.

I do not believe it is bold to say that Josh Ritter is one of the premier folk singer-songwriters of post-2000. His lyric portrays fructuous language, not overly gaudy or austere, but a perfect combination of beautiful imagery created by a strong grip on correct diction. His metaphors are excellent and he often creates musical pieces that are subtly allegorical . Ritter embodies a folk master. “Another New World” is perhaps his best work of experiment folk and extraordinary lyric. And, he is only 34 years old.

“Another New World” is the 11th track off of So Runs The World Away, Ritter’s sixth full-length studio album. The album is a gem and it features everything from a quirky love song to a traditional folk death rundown. But, “Another New World” is the album’s chef d’oeuvre. It is a close to eight minute wonder. Seriously, the song is spectacle. Josh Ritter and his Royal City Band (his often forgotten tour/studio musicians) produce an epic.

Back in May, I reviewed the album ( and here is what I wrote about “Another New World”

“In the album’s expansive “Another New World,” Ritter tells the tale of a polar explorer who is forced to sacrifice his beloved ship in order to survive the cold. It is a maritime love story; a type of lyric that Ritter has mastered. The explorer’s ship is called the Annabel Lee. Now, quick English lesson. Who has a poem named “Annabel Lee.” The only difference is the poem is not about a ship. Edgar Allen Poe wrote the story of Annabel Lee who is frozen and killed by angels. Ritter’s story is similar. His guitar picking sounds like the trochaic rhythm in Poe’s poem. This is a wonderful touch that may often go unnoticed. It is important to realize how intelligent Ritter, the son of two neuroscientists actually is…in English? What? Anyway, the song is euphonious and the lyric is masterful. It almost sounds like an optimist dirge which I understand makes no sense at all”

I agree, Matt. Listen to the song below:

But, in the review above I do not discuss the lyric (which perhaps is the best part of the song). The song is most certainly haunting and the music does provide this effect, but Ritter’s lyric carries it. Let’s go exploring.

Ritter begins the song with the line:

“The leading lights of the age all wondered
amongst themselves what I would do next”

Like any good writer he places us into the scene. No need for wasted time. He only has around eight minutes. We are in the mind of the explorer who longs to lead an exhibition into the icy north in search of new land. And, he believes he can do it because he has his ship, Annabel Lee.

“I looked round the room in the way I once
had and I saw that they wanted belief
So I said “all I got are my guts and my God
and I paused, and the Annabel Lee”

Oh the Annabel Lee, I saw their eyes shine,
the most beautiful ship in the sea,
My Nina, my Pinta, my Santa Maria,
my beautiful Annabel Lee”

The Annabel Lee represents his confidence. It is a mark of beauty and strength. The eyes of his superiors shine. The Annabel Lee is the reason why he is allowed to travel northwards.

Poe writes in his “Annabel Lee” – “A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling, My beautiful Annabel Lee.” We see Ritter’s allusion clearly. While Ritter is talking about a ship, both characters love their respective Annabel Lee. I would argue that Annabel Lee is allegorical. Both characters are loving a vision of beauty and perfection.

Ritter is forced to burn his Annabel Lee and use it for warmth. He sings:

“We talked of the other new worlds we discovered
till she gave up her body to me
And as I chopped up her main sail for timber
I told her of all that we still had to see

Then the frost turned her moorings to nine tails
and the wind lashed her sides in the cold
I burned her to keep me alive every night
in the loving embrace of her hold”

Ritter personifies the Annabel Lee in his anthropomorphic verse that portrays the ultimate melancholic funeral scene. Ritter’s character is forced to burn his strength and concept of beauty in order to keep himself alive. It demonstrates failure. He cannot crack the ice.

“And I won’t call it rescue what brought me back
to the old world to drink and decline
And pretend that the search for another new world
was well worth the burning of mine”

And there is the heart-wrenching verse. In his greedy search for another new world he ended up burning his own, his Annabel Lee. But, the song is left with a tinge of optimism.

“Sometimes at night in my dreams
comes the singing of some unknown tropical bird
and I smile in my sleep thinking
Annabel Lee had made it to Another New World”

Yes, his ship has sailed on in his memories (still somewhat personified – the ship seems like it has gone to heaven). The character does still long for the exhibition, long for his Annabel Lee. Poe’s poem ends similarly. The allusion is clear.

Ritter’s work is a literature student’s dream. It just allowed me to write a mini essay on its genius. And, to think it is four. But, like I said it could have just as easily be one. It is that good of a song.

2 Responses to “The Best Songs of 2010: #4: “Another New World” by Josh Ritter”

  1. I. P. Phreely July 6, 2017 at 4:32 pm #

    Yo, Mini essay? Not Likely

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