Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Josh Ritter / "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter"

You know, James Blunt's new CD comes out today. You can hear him "sing" cliches in an unconvincing whimper. You can hear him try and pass off "you can hear the sound of my breaking heart" and "I really want you to really want me" as genuine, heart-felt lyrics on a song pathetically titled "I Really Want You." Then again, instead of going back to "Back to Bedlam", you could try on a little Josh Ritter. His fifth full-length, "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter", is what all the shitty pop singer/songwriters wish they could be.

After all, what is it that makes a pop album great? First off, it has to be listenable. Pop music, at its core, is based on memorable melodies and a tight structure. "Conquests" is certainly listenable and certainly tightly-structured. Only two of the songs go beyond the four-minute mark, none of them top five, and whether it's the Spoon-esque guitar/piano stomp of "Mind's Eye" or the heavy drums and county-folk sound of "The Next to the Last Romantic", these are hooks and songs that stay with you.

The next ingredient to a great pop album is variety. While some artists are content to make the same song 13 times over to fulfil their duties as an artist, the best albums of the genre aren't afraid to switch up styles, sounds, and influences. Ritter brings us sing-along folk ("To the Dogs or Whoever") to radio-ready pop ("Right Moves") to delicate acoustic ("The Temptation of Adam" - one of the year's best songs) to power pop that would make even Carl Newman step back and stand in awe ("Real Long Distance"). Ritter is not afraid to tackle a plethora of styles, and he handles each with the ease of a true pop virtuoso.

The final key ingredient to a great pop album is replay value. How often will you return to this album before you tire of it? In the case of "Conquests", I have been listening to it for two weeks now, and while that in itself is a short time, I can't envision myself tiring of this album for quite some time. The lyrics are good enough to deserve and reward exploration, the music is varied enough to not become repetitious and tedious, and Ritter has an outstanding and appealing voice to make this not only an album to stick to, but also an album for everyone. If this isn't a great pop album, it's damn close.

Rating: 8.9

1 comment:

Kid C said...

Can't believe I went over two weeks without posting. Things got a little crazy while adjusting to the college life. I'll attempt to get back to regularly reviewing again. Hang with me folks!