Monday, October 31, 2011

#5: Neil Young - On The Beach

Release Year: 1974

The first time I heard On The Beach, I thought the first half was brilliant.  "Walk On" is a great rock song, "For The Turnstiles" is a nice little banjo tune, and "Revolution Blues" is like an even better "Southern Man."

But this album really achieved greatness for me when I heard it while driving down the freeway in Phoenix late one night, while in a mellow state of mind, and "Motion Pictures (For Carrie)" came on.  A feeling of peaceful satisfaction came over me that lasted through the end of "Ambulance Blues."

The back side of this album was recorded while the band were consuming a marijuana-laced honey concoction, and the result is three mellow tracks with an abstract and tender quality not achieved anywhere else in his repertoire.

This record is a portrait of a man on his way out of the ditch.  This is an album about finding resolution in your toughest battles.

Standout tracks:
  • Revolution Blues
  • Ambulance Blues
  • Walk On

Sunday, October 30, 2011

#6: Jeff Buckley - Grace

Release Year: 1994

Jeff Buckley's father, Tim, was a successful folk musician who lived a reckless life, characterized by frequent substance abuse, which ended at a relatively young age.  Jeff Buckley was a successful rock musician who lived quite the opposite lifestyle, without any substance abuse issues...and he did at a relatively young age.

I sometimes wonder if Grace would have quite the impact it has now, had Jeff gone on to record more music.  But that is purely academic; the fact of the matter is, this album is spectacular.  His style is unique, and his voice is strong and passionate.

Buckley's rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is nothing short of moving.  If you include a cover song on your studio album, you better make sure you contribute something, and Jeff answered that in spades.

We'll never know what Jeff Buckley would have recorded had he not drowned, but with just this one album, he made an indelible entry into music history.

Standout tracks:
  • Hallelujah
  • Eternal Life
  • Grace

Saturday, October 29, 2011

#7: Josh Ritter - The Animal Years

Release Year: 2006

Josh Ritter has always been a great lyricist, and a great folk storyteller.  Here, though, the lyrics are more pessimistic than anything else he has written, and it gives his music a whole new touch.  The tone is set right away with "Girl In The War," a song that is about the feeling of helplessness one must feel when he has a girl who has been deployed to Iraq, but can also be about the helplessness you feel when you are simply unable to heft the object of your devotion, whatever that may be.

The great thing about this album is that the lyrics work on multiple levels.

Contained herein is Ritter's best lyrical work to date, the sprawling "Thin Blue Flame."  Over the course of its nine plus minutes, this song evolves from cynicism to anger, and finally to resign and reconciliation.  And the tone and intensity of the music matches that of the lyrics throughout.  This is one of my favorite songs.

There is a reason none other than Stephen King gave this album the honor of being his favorite album of 2006.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

#8: Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet

Release Year: 2007

Porcupine Tree has had a vibrant career, with a history of genre jumping.  The early days were psychedelic, and after a brief hiatus after Lightbulb Sun, they took up metal.  2007's Fear of a Blank Planet is like a look back at everything they had done up to that point, with apparent ties to many of their previous styles.

In describing the theme of this album, Steven Wilson stated, to paraphrase, that when he was growing up in the 1980s, the biggest issue society was facing was racial tensions, and one of the most important albums on that topic was Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet.  Now, race issues seem to be largely a thing of the past, but kids growing up in this age face a whole new set of problems related to proliferation of information.  As he related it, he didn't even know what pornography was until he was 16, but now it's a click away for most ten year olds.

Thus, all of the lyrics on this album deal with the subject of how our modern society is shaping adolescents.  The songs largely deal with overmedication, teenage angst, suicide, entitlement, etc.  Because I generally agree with his conjecture that the onslaught of information is one of the major circumstances that will determine where humanity goes in the future, I can really appreciate this album, even if its lyrics are fairly simple.  The message it conveys is not deep or mastered, but it is succinct.  It doesn't tell you how to think about the issues; it gets you to think about them.

But of course, the music is superb as well, or else I wouldn't have this in my top 10.  Gavin Harrison shines on drums, the textures are rich, the harmonies are as excellent as ever, and we have the most abstract Porcupine Tree has been since Signify.  And if you include the other tracks from the FoaBP sessions in your evaluation ("Normal," "What Happens Now?", "Nil Recurring," and "Cheating The Polygraph" were not included because Wilson felt they did not fit like he wanted them to), it's even more superb.

Standout tracks:
  • Fear of a Blank Planet
  • Anesthetize
  • Normal (technically from Nil Recurring) 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

#9: King Crimson - Lizard

Release Year: 1970

In the very late 60s and early 70s, King Crimson became notable for their ability to blend jazz and classical stylings into their music.  Lizard is easily their jazziest record.

Some people don't like Lizard.  This is understandable, but they are missing out on one of the greatest albums ever made.  This album goes from weird, to more weird, to serene, and ends at epic.  It has everything from seeming nonsense, chaos, a coded song about the breakup of The Beatles, guest vocals by Jon Anderson, and a killer English horn solo (arguably my favorite English horn solo).

As if this album weren't great enough already, it is even more incredible when heard in Steven Wilson's 5.1 surround sound mix.  All of the King Crimson 40th Anniversary Editions are good, but this is one of the albums that benefits the most from the 5.1 treatment.

Listen to this one if you like the weird, jazzy, or classical.  If you want rock songs, look elsewhere.

Standout tracks:
  • Lizard
  • Indoor Games

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#10: Steven Wilson - Insurgentes

Release Year: 2008

Steven Wilson is probably my favorite musician, and his work in 2007-2008 is probably why.  In this general time period, he was involved in Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Blank Planet, Blackfield's II, and this, his first solo album.

Insurgentes was named after the main drag in Mexico City where this was recorded, and it is more textured, abstract, and electronic than his Porcupine Tree work.  You'll find more variety here than in any of his countless other projects, from straightforward rock ("Harmony Korine"), to loud and discordant ("Salvaging"), to ambient ("Veneno Para Las Hadas," "Twilight Coda"), to killer bass groove ("No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun"), to wall-of-sound (the end of "Get All You Deserve").

This is one of those albums I can listen to nonstop.  It was Wilson's most ambitious work to date, and easily his most beautiful.  At the time, it was also one of the finest sounding albums I had heard, and has only since been matched by some of the other albums he has mixed.

PS: I should note that I think his new solo album, Grace For Drowning, is even better, but since it was released only a month ago, I'm not going to include it.  Just know that it's probably going to be in my top ten when the dust settles.

Standout tracks:
  • Harmony Korine
  • No Twilight In The Courts Of The Sun
  • Significant Other

Monday, October 24, 2011

#11: Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Release Year: 1969

Neil Young's second album, and first with Crazy Horse, is a true masterpiece.  Crazy Horse was one of the loudest bands of the time, and provided a perfect vehicle for Neil's songwriting ability.

It's really difficult to beat an album with both "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand," two of the best rock songs written by anybody, ever.  Neil has written several lengthy rock songs ("Words," "Last Dance," "Cortez the Killer," "Like A Hurricane," "Shots," at least four songs from Ragged Glory, "Change Your Mind," "Scenery," "Ordinary People," and "No Hidden Path," just to name a few), but the two on this album are his very best.

This is the album that turned me into a Neil Young fan.  The first Neil records I had heard were HarvestHarvest Moon, and After the Gold Rush, two of which are Young's most successful albums, but it is this one that converted me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

#12: The Black Crowes - Before the Frost...Until the Freeze

Release Year: 2009

The Crowes had a long and, in some respects, turbulent, career, with struggles over creative control, poorly received experimentation, and a hiatus or two, but it all culminated in this excellent work, Before the Frost...Until the Freeze.  This album was recorded in front of a live audience, with minimal overdubs, in Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock, NY.  This gives the album a bit of a spontaneous feel.

The first disc, Before the Frost, is more typical Crowes (except for, ironically, the lead single, "I Ain't Hiding," which has a bit of a disco beat).  The second disc (technically, just mp3 downloads), however, is what really makes this work.  Here we see the Black Crowes strip down to good 'ole folk music.  It was really their journey into folk territory that made them ascend about the level of standard rock-and-roll bands, and here we're treated to a whole disc's worth.

The Crowes are back on hiatus now.  We'll see if they get back together again and make more records, but if they don't, what a fine record to end with.

Standout tracks:
  • I Ain't Hiding
  • Roll Old Jeremiah
  • Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love)
  • Shady Grove

Thursday, October 20, 2011

#13: Trampled By Turtles - Palomino

Release Year: 2010

This is an album that I initially thought was OK... And then I heard it again, and liked it more.  And heard it yet another time, and like it even more.  Each time I listen to it, it gets better.

You see, there aren't really any other albums like this.  The Duluth quintet faithfully adheres to the use of acoustic instruments, yet this is one of the most intense, energetic albums I have in my possession.  This is speedgrass, thrashgrass, or whatever you want to call it... Folk music played at a frenetic pace.

Even though they have a very standard instrumentation, they have a sound that is all their own.  Tim Saxhaug's acoustic bass guitar and Dave Simonett's alternative vocals and songwriting style make this unlike anything else that I'm aware of.  And that gets this album an A+ in my book.

Standout tracks:
  • Wait So Long
  • Victory
  • New Orleans
  • Help You

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#14: Opeth - Blackwater Park

Release Year: 2001

I never thought I would ever like death metal... Until I heard Opeth.  There is no other band that better takes advantage of a loud/soft dynamic than this one, and this is their album that most seamlessly transitions between soft, idyllic folk passages and raging metal rampages.

Blackwater Park is notable for being the first Opeth album to feature Steven Wilson as producer, and his influence is profound.  Here we have a crisper, less murky Opeth, with keyboard parts and vocal harmonies.  The song "Harvest," in particular (featuring background vocals by Wilson), sounds like it could fit in perfectly well on a Porcupine Tree record.

Opeth is not your normal metal band.  There are long instrumental passages, extreme dynamics, and some songs without choruses (the closing song, the title track, features a 3-4 minute soft acoustic stretch in the middle that almost lulls you to sleep before returning as relentless as ever).  Blackwater Park is one of the greatest metal albums ever made.

Standout tracks:
  • Blackwater Park
  • Harvest
  • The Drapery Falls

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

#15: Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street

Release Year: 1972

The Stones had a lot of great albums, but this one came at the peak of their career in the early 1970s.  There is just something about this album that is the epitome of everything that was great about both the Rolling Stones and the early 70s.  You won't find a lot of complex songs structures here: what you will find is a vibrant collection of completely enjoyable rock and roll songs.

Exile didn't yield a lot of hits relative to other Rolling Stones albums... Yet, this is probably their best, and most unassuming collection of songs.

If you can have only one Rolling Stones album in your collection, this would have to be your best option.  This album is what rock and roll was all about.

 Standout tracks:
  • Sweet Virginia
  • Tumbling Dice
  • Rocks Off
  • Happy 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#16: Lost In The Trees - All Alone in an Empty House

Release Year: 2010

Here's one you may not have heard of.  In 2006, Ari Picker was in an indie folk/rock band in North Carolina called The Never.  He left the band to attend Berklee School of Music, and learned orchestra/film scoring.  Using that knowledge, he started the band Lost In The Trees, which I usually describe as a heavily-orchestrated folk band (actually, I wouldn't call it a band... they're really more a throng).

Their 2007 record Time Taunts Me is brilliant, but All Alone in an Empty House takes his fine mashup of folk and classical and adds an extra dash of focus.  The result is phenomenal.

There is something really interesting about the juxtaposition of detailed, highly organized orchestra scores, and his somewhat frail, and sometimes almost chaotic, vocal style.  It can safely be stated that there is nothing else that is anything like this.  Picker has a truly novel idea here, a talented group of musicians surrounding him, and the talent to put it all together; this is one of the most exciting new musical projects I've heard in some time.  Let's hope they can garner enough support to keep it going for some time.

Standout tracks:
  • Song for the Painter
  • Fireplace
  • A Room where your Paintings Hang 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#17: Pain of Salvation - Road Salt One

Release Year: 2010

Swedish progressive metal heavyweights Pain of Salvation's seventh studio album, Road Salt One, was a major departure from their previous work (this, even despite the fact that BE and Scarsick weren't exactly true to form themselves).  It was recorded in a vintage style: it sounds like it is straight from the 70s.  This move was not very well-received among many fans (ironically, few fans of "progressive" music like music that strays too far from what they're used to), but it was great for people, like me, who like to just hear something new.

The departure is so severe that it really doesn't sound anything like their previous work.  This record is not even metal, and it's not "prog."  It's just melodic modern rock music in heavy 70s stylings.

Daniel Gildenlöw already made the greatest progressive metal album ever, so why would he need to make another progressive metal album?  The fact that he tried this, and in my opinion, succeeded, is a truer testament to his creative genius than any number of identical progressive metal albums would have been. The fact is, this new format allows him to unleash some incredible songs and melodies, the likes of which would not have been possible in the old format.

This is an album that is, unfortunately, destined to be forgotten: prog rock fans who are aware of Pain of Salvation are likely to pass over this one, while fans of more straightforward rock are going to assume this is just another prog metal album (if they ever even hear of it at all).  Oh well, I'll just enjoy this one myself.

Standout tracks:
  • Innocence
  • Sisters
  • Road Salt
  • Curiosity 

Monday, October 10, 2011

#18: O.S.I. - Office of Strategic Influence

Release Year: 2003

In 2003, 9/11 was fresh on our minds, and one of the big sticking points was how much civil liberty we were willing to give up in order to achieve more security (or, some of us argue, the perception of more security).  Ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore was invited by Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos to collaborate on an album, and what we got was one of the most awesomely paranoid albums I've ever heard.

The term "Office of Strategic Influence" refers to the propaganda machine set up by the US government after the terrorist attacks.  The lyrics are centered around this theme, and indeed, the lyrics and music take on a somewhat sardonic tone, with Kevin Moore's signature sound bites topically spread throughout.  This is an excellent protest album: it does not come across as trite, shallow, or even angry, but instead more sarcastic.

Besides Moore and Matheos, this album features ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, some melodies and lyrics by Daniel Gildenlöw, a song featuring lyrics and vocals by Steven Wilson, and another guest or two.

This album is a perfect mix of heavy and atmospheric, and the vast difference in styles between the respective projects led by Moore and Matheos yields a very diverse and interesting album; yet, it still manages to stay true to its specific theme.

Standout tracks:
  • Head
  • Dirt From A Holy Place
  • When You're Ready
  • shutDOWN 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

#19: Josh Ritter - So Runs The World Away

Release Year: 2010

After a slight misstep in The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (though by no means a bad album), Josh Ritter returned with his most musically mature and diverse album yet, So Runs The World Away.  This record is upbeat, ethereal, and atmospheric.

Here we see Josh at his most poetic.  Songs like "The Curse," "Orbital," and "Rattling Locks" exemplify what makes Josh Ritter my favorite lyricist ever.

The highlight of this record is the dreary, seven minute track "Another New World."  It would be difficult to find a better showcase of tone than this.  It's rare enough that an author effectively employs a dark, chilling tone in words alone; Ritter does not only that, but projects that same tone into the music itself.  Indeed, two of my favorite moments this year were Punch Brothers covering this song.

Standout tracks:
  • Another New World
  • Southern Pacifica
  • Lark
  • Orbital 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

#20: Abigail Washburn - City of Refuge

Release Year: 2011

I don't know what it is about this album that makes it so great.  The first few times I heard it, I thought it nothing special, but said I'd buy it if I saw it on vinyl.  At Telluride Bluegrass, I saw a vinyl copy at the merch tent, and I'm a man of my word.

It helped that I saw her perform several times at the festival.  It was during her live set that her music really clicked with me, and I found myself enjoying her set more than almost any other.  I listened to the album a few more times in the ensuing weeks, and I was hooked.

Washburn plays the banjo, but this isn't bluegrass.  It's more folk than anything else.  The music is rich and textured, and her warm voice perfectly complements her lush songs.  There's really nothing else out there that combines the same influences she pulls from, making this one of the more unique records in my collection.

Standout tracks:
  • Divine Bell
  • Burn Thru
  • Chains
  • Last Train 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

#21: Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

Release Year: 2010 (2009 UK)

Typically, I don't like music that is really popular.  It's not that I'm an ideological contrarian; it's more that the characteristics I value in an artist are usually not valued by the world at large.  But every now and then, something I like happens to become really popular, for one reason or another.

I actually purchased this album before it was officially released in the US.  I spun it probably dozens of times before they really started to pick up steam in the states.  There's nothing particularly new about this record; other artists in the West London folk scene (e.g., Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, Johnny Flynn, et al) were already doing the "intelligent hipster folk" thing.  But Mumford & Sons took that style and injected an extra level of energy in their music, and the result is something that maintains the same musical quality, but is considerably more accessible.

This is one of the albums that is really pushing acoustic music to new levels of popularity.  Considering most of the new artists I've been listening to in the past two years are similarly acoustic, I really can't complain about their popularity.

Standout tracks:
  • Awake My Soul
  • Winter Winds
  • The Cave 
  • Thistle & Weeds

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#22: Dream Theater - Awake

Release Year: 1994

A lot of people accuse Dream Theater of being pretentious.  That they are nothing more than a bunch of showoffs trying to fit as many notes into each measure as possible.  They are certainly guilty of that at times (especially after the departure of Kevin Moore), but I cannot deny that Awake is a solid album, and Dream Theater's musical pinnacle.

This album flows just right, from the first song to the last.  There is certainly musical virtuosity here, but none of it seems out of place.  The long songs don't seem unnecessarily long, nor do they lack direction.  The musicians are technical, but here they can actually be described as "progressive."

This album has strong dynamics, interesting rhythms, and memorable memories.  After Awake, Kevin Moore would leave the band, and they never quite had the same creative spark.

Standout tracks:
  • Scarred
  • Voices
  • Space-Dye Vest
  • 6:00 

Monday, October 3, 2011

#23: Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy

Release Year: 1973

Led Zeppelin's fourth album, IV (or ZOSO or Untitled or whatever you choose to call it), gets most of the attention, but Houses of the Holy is easily my favorite Zep record.  There's just something about the record that makes it stand out, and I think it is "The Rain Song" and "No Quarter."

These happen to be my two favorite Zeppelin songs. "The Rain Song" is stunningly beautiful...I love everything about it.  The way the choruses hit you is just perfect.  And "No Quarter" might be the most creative and artistic Led Zeppelin ever got.

This album is just solid from start to finish.

Standout tracks:
  • The Rain Song
  • No Quarter
  • Over The Hills And Far Away 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Release: Steven Wilson - Grace For Drowning

Release Date: September 26, 2011
Label:  KScope

Having received my much-awaited Grace For Drowning vinyl and deluxe edition mail orders, and allowing a few listens to set in, I feel compelled to provide my thoughts on this excellent new record.  Steven Wilson is the lead singer, songwriter, producer, and creative genius behind the progressive rock/metal band Porcupine Tree, and has been involved with many other projects (as both musician, producer, and general sound expert), including Blackfield, Opeth, and, notably, the new 40th anniversary King Crimson remasters.  It is the latter project that clearly had the most influence over the outcome of his new sophomore solo record.

I shall break this up into a few broad attributes.

Grace For Drowning vinyl edition
I bought both the vinyl and the deluxe blu-ray edition.  The vinyl is a standard double gatefold, with printed sleeves and 180g black vinyl.  This is what I listened to first, and it is an impressive package, but not any more so than similar vinyl releases.

The deluxe edition, running at a cool $80 plus shipping, is truly impressive.  This version comes with both discs of Grace For Drowning, and bonus disc with demos and outtakes, and a blu-ray disc containing 5.1 and stereo mixes of the album, videos, a couple of bonus tracks, photos, and handwritten lyrics.  I haven't had a chance to watch all of the videos, but the ones I've seen do songs justice, and fit their dark mood, as is typical of Lasse Hoile-directed videos.

Grace For Drowning deluxe edition
The deluxe edition is housed in a 120-page hardcover book, whose cover is fitted with embossed denim.  They certainly did not skimp on quality here.  The book's 120 pages - yes, there are really 120 pages - are photos that I'm assuming are thematic, interspersed with lyrics and reproductions of handwritten notes.  I don't know where all these photos came from, but it looks like almost as much work could have been put into the design of this edition as the music itself.  Steven Wilson considers the album artwork to be, along with the actual music, one of the critical components of an album, and this album artwork is as breathtaking as any I've seen.

I mentioned that Wilson is hot off his work on King Crimson's 40th Anniversary Editions, and these song truly phenomenal.  The new 5.1 remixes of those albums are largely responsible for my renewed appreciation for Lizard and Islands.  Thus, it is only appropriate for this album to include a 5.1 edition.

The great thing about this is the 5.1 mix doesn't make the album.  It still sounds spectacular in stereo; you don't even really need the 5.1 mix to appreciate the incredible aural experience this album offers.  What the 5.1 mix brings to the table is a little more subtle; Wilson essentially brings you, the listener, into the room by moving atmospheric elements and some vocals to the rear channels.  There is more separation between the sounds.  The blu-ray edition really shines during the quiet parts of the album, when there are but a few instruments, and you are not limited to the dynamic range compressed stereo CDs have.  A perfect example of this is the final track, "Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye."  You hear Wilson in the center channel, the piano in the rear, guitar chords in the front, some occasional strumming in the rear, and layered background vocals all around you.

Even if you don't buy the $80 deluxe edition, it is still worthwhile to have the blu-ray disc, when can be bought separately for about $15 on Amazon.

The Actual Music
Obviously the music is the most important part of any album, and there is no disappointment in this regard.  Grace For Drowning is far more ambitious than Wilson's debut solo album, Insurgentes, which is sometimes a recipe for trouble.  There is always the risk of coming across as overindulgent, and sometimes music just needs to be simple.

Fortunately, Wilson took a new approach here: he made two separate albums, Deform to Form a Star, which comprises the first disc, and Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye, which comprises the second disc.  He intended for these albums to be digested separately.  The first, Deform, is more structured, less ambitious, and contains a few beautifully simple songs (e.g., "Postcard").  The disc starts out with the delicate title track, whose vocals are limited to some layered la's.  The second track, "Sectarian," is a wonderfully discordant and rhythmic instrumental.  This starkly contrasts to the Insurgentes, which began with the catchiest song on the album, "Harmony Korine."  The effect here is that after ten minutes of textured music, the soft vocals become far more profound when the track "Deform to Form a Star" begins.

The second disc/album is more abstract and ambitious.  The centerpiece is a very Lizard-esque epic track entitled "Raider II."  The onset of this track seems to give a deliberate nod to Lizard, with its vocal melody and style that is very reminiscent of the beginning of Lizard's first track, "Cirkus."  This influence is noticeable throughout the entire album; for this record, Wilson employed several jazz musicians, and there are saxophone and flute parts scattered about.  Given the fact that Lizard is one of my favorite albums, this is a welcome influence.

The reason I like the way the albums are divided, is that if the whole album is a bit too much for you, you can simply stick to the first sub-album.  This disc alone offers enough depth to keep you occupied for some time.  When you feel like you're done absorbing the first disc, you can then move on to the second.

I don't know where this album will settle after I've had months to digest it, but my initial impression, after three listens, is that it's the best thing I've heard in some time, and it's Wilson's best work, which is a high mark indeed.  

This album, perhaps more than any album I've heard, offers the complete package.  It is pure art in every form.  It has excellent music, great photography, beautiful videos, and amazing sound.  Regardless of whether this is your preferred style of music, you can't help but be amazed by Wilson's ability to put all this together.  


Saturday, October 1, 2011

#24: Josh Ritter - Hello Starling

Release Year: 2003

The first of Josh Ritter's trifecta of great albums, Hello Starling contains some of my favorite modern folk tunes.  Here, the acoustic guitar shines, and Ritter's poetic aptitude is on display.

This is Josh at his most sincere.  Most of the songs are nice, pleasant, acoustic guitar-based ballads, with a few upbeat folk rock songs mixed in ("Kathleen," "Snow Is Gone," and "Man Burning" being the ones that stick out).

Ritter is one of my favorite artists, and a huge part of that is his lyrics.  I don't know what to say about this album other than, this man is a poet.

Standout tracks:
  • Kathleen
  • Snow Is Gone
  • Wings
  • Man Burning