The Animal Years

From the music-box dreaminess of “Girl in the War,” in which St. Peter and St. Paul argue the (de)merits of the Iraq war (“But I got a girl in the war, Paul, her eyes are like champagne/They sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain”) to the plaintive Americana melancholy of “Idaho” to the almost epic (nine-plus minutes) ballad “Thin Blue Flame,” Josh Ritter presents a strange world that’s nonetheless familiar. He’s been compared to a young Bob Dylan. I wouldn’t go that far—more like a mixture of Elliot Smith and Leonard Cohen with a touch of Mark Twain. Produced by Brian Deck, who helped create Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days and Modest Mouse’s The Moon and Antarctica.