Tag Archives: JoshRitter

Top 10 Songs of 2013: #6 – “New Lover” by Josh Ritter

18 Dec

ritter

Josh Ritter is no stranger to the Music Court’s end-of-the-year countdown. In 2010 he placed #4 with his ode to Annabel Lee, “Another New World.” Readers of the Music Court will recognize that I do maintain a sort-of music reviewer crush on Mr. Ritter, but let me assure you that … well … ok, the selection is inevitably biased. Although I cautioned all readers that the selections were obviously biased, I did judge songs based on a metric, and did so as objectively as possible. Honestly, I did not want any repeat performers from past years and I ended up with (spoiler alert!) two, but I believe this is more of a testament to each artist/band’s potency and productivity than any unconscious subjectivity. Truth be told, Ritter absolutely deserved a spot on this year’s list. “New Lover” encompasses a rare blend of masterful, spiteful lyrics and deceptive acoustic pacifism. Don’t be fooled; Josh Ritter has constructed a subtly epic “f*ck you” to his old lover.

Ritter released his seventh full-length studio album in March of this year. The album just continued his streak of excellent releases. Although some could aptly argue that all of his albums are excellent, Ritter hit his stride with The Animal Years and has since sailed through his Historical Conquests (his best album) and So Runs the World Away, where 2010’s #4 song appears. The Beast in Its Tracks, this year’s release, combines Ritter’s one-two punch – infectious acoustic instrumentation and witty, daedal lyrics that bounce effortlessly with the rhythm and make ink imprints in the mind of the listener.

“New Lover” represents Ritter’s split with Dawn Landes. The song so well portrays the thoughts and feelings of a forlorn lover that it would actually be a disservice for me not to include some of my favorite lines in this post. I would literally be depriving you of lyrical mastery. Future lyricists of the world, check out Ritter’s words for inspiration.

I can’t pretend that all is well, it’s like I’m haunted by a ghost
There are times I cannot speak your name for the catchin’ in my throat,
There are things I will not sing for the sting of sour notes.

Ritter starts the song with an inevitability. Breaking up is indeed hard to do, and one reason for that is that the individual haunts you and causes pain even when he/she is gone. He even compares the entire process to music (understandably, that is his trade) and it is true that a split carries the “sting of sour notes.”

Moving on, Ritter writes:

I’ve got a new lover now, I know that she’s not mine,
I only want to hold her, I don’t need to read her mind,
And she only looks like you when she’s in a certain light.

I don’t need to read her mind. Burn. But he still can’t escape his former love, as described by the looking like you portion. Throughout the song, Ritter sings that he hopes that his ex has also found happiness, but one can almost tell in the song that there is some facetiousness in his vocalization, which throughout the song is subdued but noticeably sardonic and pained – almost Dylan-like. How does he end the song, though?

I hope you’ve got a lover now, hope you’ve got somebody who
Can give you what you need like I couldn’t seem to do.
But if you’re sad and you are lonesome and you’ve got nobody true,
I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me happy too. 

Tell me you didn’t smile. Tell me you haven’t felt this way. Ritter is human. You are human. He demonstrates the ineluctable post-breakup spite with such poise and finality. Just freaking perfect.

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Ritter and the Royal City Band Rock Terminal 5

20 May
Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band

Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band

In “Lights,” the concluding track of Josh Ritter’s new album The Beast In Its Tracks,” Ritter sings “Every heart on Earth is dark half the time,” an apt line that seems to sum up Ritter’s unique brand of potent folk/rock and poetic lyric. Ritter, a realistic romantic, paints extraordinary love songs with settings that range from an Egyptian tomb to a government controlled missile silo, but balances these resplendent short stories with tales of lost love and regret. The heart is dark half the time.

But…it’s ablaze the other half of the time, and this vivacious beating organ was on display at Terminal 5 this past weekend when Ritter and his dashing Royal City Band wholeheartedly rocked a packed crowd with a satiating 20-song set.

After The Felice Brothers, a local New York folk/rock band, set a passionate tone with a vivacious opening act fit with sultry Dylan-like folk pieces and perfervid blues-laden songs fit with white-hot accordion, fiddle, and even washboard, Ritter came out alone at around 9 p.m. and immediately sang the soft opening notes of “Idaho,” his tribute to his home state.

One of the most striking features of a Josh Ritter performance is how happy he is to be on stage performing to a crowd. As a listener, you get the sense that he would be beaming even if he was performing to a group of 20-or-so listeners. He has a clear love for music, poetry, stories, and performance. This warmth was echoed by the audience that sang along to most of the songs – even providing the much-needed background to the end of one of Ritter’s most serene and melodic songs, “Change of Time” (below).

Ritter displayed why he is a true troubadour in his between-song monologues where he talked about his life – including a candid expression of divorce and love.

Each song was tinged with a calm force that washed over the crowd like a breeze. But of all the songs I wanted to hear, I was most excited for “The Temptation of Adam,” which was the song (off of the 2007 album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter) that first attracted me to Ritter’s music. This uber-creative love song that links the transition between attraction to deep (but somewhat apprehensive) love with a “top secret location 300-feet under the ground” (a missile silo) is as eccentric and zany as it is wondrous and impassioned. Ritter demonstrates his remarkable ability to write witty and brilliant lyrics that flow perfectly with the song. While I do not have a recording of his performance from this past Saturday, I do have one (Youtube) from 2011, also in Terminal 5.

Excellent concert! If Ritter and the Royal City Band is performing near your town, I seriously suggest you go to see them!

 

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