Heaping praise on Josh Ritter is nothing new. Since his self-released 1999 debut, he has been a veritable critical darling. But I would be remiss if I did not get in on the act as he is not only one of our finest songwriters, "So Runs The World Away" is one of the finest releases of 2010. If there is anyone doing the folk/rock, Americana thing any better, I've yet to hear it.
Ritter is often compared to such legends as Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and he gladly admits they are influences. On this album those influences are definitely there, but he has expanded his sound in places on "So Runs The World Away", not a new direction per se, just as he calls it "larger and more detailed."
After the intro track "Curtains", the album starts with the lovely "Change Of Time", its sadly beautiful chorus carried along by acoustic guitar before heavy drums, plinking pianos and steel guitar join in. The gorgeous piano ballad "The Curse" is next and lyrically and melodically it is perfection.
Things are more diverse after the opening ballads. Ritter delivers a menacing vocal on the edgy "Rattling Locks", while "Lantern" is surely a clap and sing along favorite in concert. "Southern Pacifica" is a fine mid-tempo track that approaches pop territory and "Orbital" is heavy on electric guitar and piano, one of the harder tracks on the album.
"See How Man Was Made" is the prettiest moment of the album, a three and a half minute plea for companionship. Ritter's vocals here send shivers down your spine as he sings, "Please man ain't supposed to live alone/no that ain't what he needs/he needs to find a home/with someone else who needs a man/ a man who needs a home." He shifts effortlessley into a soaring falsetto as he cries "Man wasn't made to live alone" over very sparse orchestration and acoustic guitar. It's a stunning performance on an essential album, undoubtedly one of 2010's best.
"So Runs The World Away" was released in the U.S. May 4, 2010 on Pytheas Recordings.