The former, released in 2006, put him on the map (and the covers of several magazines) as one of America's greatest songwriters, with very catchy songs and exquisitely penned, highly literary writing. The record that followed, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, he called his Ram, after Paul McCartney's "let's just throw stuff at the wall and have fun" solo album. (Though it does contains "The Temptation of Adam," perhaps his best-written song ever.)
This one's kind of a mix, from what I can tell so far. It's tender and sad in some parts, but surprisingly bad-ass in others (see "Rattling Locks"). Though he's returned to the Americana themes he explored in Animal Years, he experiments here with sounds and melodies that you might not have expected to come out of Josh Ritter.
I've been enjoying this for a week now, but the jury is still out. Like any Ritter album, there are layers and layers of goodness to unfold with each subsequent listen.
For a taste of the new record, check out the videos, after this jump. ---
In this video, recorded at Starbucks HQ in Seattle, Ritter performs "The Curse," a ballad about (roughly) the love between a mummy and an archaeologist. Beautiful.