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The Animal Years

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Album Review

Idaho-bred singer/songwriter Josh Ritter's V2 Records debut follows in the footsteps of 2003's Hello Starling only in instrumentation. While he retains his literate tongue and expressive voice, there is far less humor on Animal Years than on his previous two outings. Producer Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse) keeps Animal Years intimate but transient, like a circus train crawling through a small town on a busy Saturday afternoon. Essentially built around two startlingly affecting diatribes on the war in Iraq, Ritter utilizes the voices of Peter and Paul, as well as Laurel & Hardy, to eke some kind of explanation from both the Administration and the Creator. The first, the deceptively sweet-sounding "Girl in the War," threatens "The angels fly around in there, but we can't see them/I got a girl in the war, Paul I know that they can hear me yell/If they can't find a way to help her they can go to Hell." The second, "Thin Blue Flame," is a nearly ten-minute rant that follows the Velvet Underground "Heroin" arc of tinder to spark to full-on blaze in a way that hasn't worked for anyone in a long time, but most certainly does here. The other cuts never reach the same heights, but standouts such as "Wolves," with its sunrise gallop and "Whole of the Moon"-era Waterboys piano, and the languid "Monster Ballads" soar only inches beneath them. [A Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition of Animal Years was reissued in 2011 that included a bonus disc featuring Ritter performing the entire album acoustic. It also included four live B-sides, two videos, and new liner notes from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Ricks.]

Customer Reviews

Outstanding, intelligent songwriting

A wonderful album from top to bottom. From the epic "Thin Blue Flame" to the spare Idaho, a stellar effort from Josh Ritter. Thoughtful, challenging lyrics wrapped in great melodies with serious hooks. Thin Blue Flame has enough great lines to last most songwriters a career, eg: "Borders soft with refugees'; "Cicadas electric in the heat of the day". As good as TBF is, my favorite song, and my kid's, is Wolves. Wonderful imagery with a great sing-along chorus and, really, who hasn't found themselves "singing without knowing the words." If you love great songwriting, this is a must-have album.

Thin Blue Flame

This is the greatest album ever made, thin blue flame and girl in the war may be the to most influential and best songs ever written and performed. Josh ritter is the greatest musician of the 21st century.


Josh Ritter could stay around for a long time. His writing ability is crazy. the almost instrament free "Idaho" is a high light on the album. buy the whole thing, its worth it.


Born: 1976 in Moscow, Idaho

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

An American singer/songwriter with a strong voice, a keen wit, and an evocative way with words, Josh Ritter has built a loyal following as one of the leading lights on the contemporary folk scene. Born in Idaho, Ritter bought his first guitar after hearing the Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash classic "The Girl from the North Country." While attending college in Oberlin, Ohio, Ritter got his first taste of the music of Leonard Cohen and Gillian Welch; he instantly fell in love with their songs and dropped...
Full Bio