The Animal Years

Following the suggestion from Serving Older Teens (Anderson, 2003), I decided to include a few CDs suggested by real live teenagers. The Animal Years is from the list of a teen who also included Stadium Arcadium by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Crane Wife by The Decemberists, and Discovery by Daft Punk. I have included it in the database because it was the only one by an artist I was not familiar with, and I wanted to expand my musical horizons.

Musician: Josh Ritter
OCLC Number: 137261575
City and Producer: New York: V2
Copyright Date: 2007
Musician’s Website: http://www.joshritter.com/

Tracklist: 1. Girl in the War 2. Wolves 3. Monster Ballads 4. Lillian, Egypt 5. Idaho 6. In the Dark 7. One More Mouth 8. Good Man 9. Best for the Best 10. Thin Blue Flame 11. Here at the Right Time

Critical Evaluation: Contemplative and occasionally a little emo, The Animal Years ebbs and swells in the listener’s ear. Ritter’s lyrics are evocative of a dusty, sepia toned American past. Its tone is quite classically folk, although the production values are higher than in the one man, one guitar style of the genre. The inclusion of a piano also provides more of a modern and orchestral feel. The music is deceptively simple; it is generally understated but occasionally builds to great complex heights. The chaotic ending of the ten minute song Thin Blue Flame feels like the boiling point after a long slow heating. And then with the next and final song, Here at the Right Time, Ritter takes the listener back to simplicity, almost like a quiet and slightly regretful goodbye.

Interest Age:
All ages
Curriculum Ties: Ritter’s lyrics could serve as an excellent opener for a unit on poetry. His sound is also a good example of contemporary American folk, and might be a good tie in for a music history class.
Booktalking (CD Talking) Ideas: Playing teens snippets of the actual songs is a good way to peak their interest.

Genre: Folk
Influences from Other Genres: Bluegrass, Country

Challenge Issues:
The Animal Years does contain references to drinking, drugs and sex, but Ritter’s lyrics are poetical, and such references are usually couched in metaphor, or act as a metaphor for a deeper meaning.

About the Artist: Josh Ritter grew up in Moscow, Idaho. He has opened for Joan Baez and performed on The David Letterman Show. He is often compared to Bruce Springstein (NPR, 2007 retrieved August 7, 2009 from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15230712).

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