Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

This is just the sound of a band having fun and it’s totally infectious.

This is just the sound of a band having fun and it’s totally infectious.



Josh Ritter’s last album, The Animal Years, received a lot of critical acclaim and rightly so. In fact, a certain Incendiary reviewer (read : me) has been known to describe it to friends, relatives and, basically, anyone within earshot, as one of the best albums ever made and easily the best of this century. (Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep the hyperbole in check here.) It was an album that he put his heart and soul into, thinking that it was his chance to try to make the best possible album he could and to give everything to it. The result was incredible and if you haven’t heard it yet, get off down to your local record retailer and get a copy now! Ok, download it (legally) if you can’t be arsed to get off your chair but don’t go a second longer without hearing it.


Sorry, I said I was going to keep that in check didn’t I. Sorry.


So, here we are with album number 4 (albums 1 and 2 are very good and well worth checking out too) and one of the best things I can say about it is that The Historical Conquests Of... sounds absolutely nothing like The Animal Years. That’s not to suggest that this album is bad. On the contrary, it’s another fantastic piece of work. It may not hit the same artistic heights as The Animal Years, but that doesn’t matter because it’s an absolute gas. Where The Animal Years was cool, calculated and pristine, Historical Conquests is dusty, grimy and immediate.


This could almost be a live album because it sounds like the band are just having an absolute ball on this record. In fact, I get the distinct impression that these songs may be even better to play than they are to listen to. Everything is so playful. I would say that you can practically hear them smiling if that didn’t sound so bloody ridiculous. This is just the sound of a band having fun and it’s totally infectious. Take the first song, To The Dogs Or Whoever, which is like nothing he’s ever written before. It’s an uptempo number but Josh has managed to squeeze so many words into each line that I’m amazed he’s able to sing it without passing out from lack of breath. It hurtles along like a kid on a bike with no brakes, totally aware that it’s living dangerously, and may die at any moment, but laughing at the thrill of it all. It’s one hell of a start and it’s as if Josh is just throwing all the baggage of The Animal Years out of the window and saying, "Fuck it, let’s just have a party." And party you will. Even when he gets quite serious, like on the haunting The Temptation Of Adam, the guitar is still quite plucky and lighthearted. This album has so much charm it can’t fail to make you smile. Hell, they even start banging dustbin lids at one point and what’s not to like about that?


Now I’ve promised to keep the hyperbole in check, but I will say this. If you’ve had a better time listening to an album this year, then tell me about it, because I certainly haven’t. The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter is basically a present containing 14 little parcels of joy. So go on, treat yourself to its box of delights. You deserve it.


Words : Damian Leslie