Album review

Josh Ritter, ‘So Runs the World Away’

May 3, 2010

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Josh Ritter, ‘So Runs the World Away’
Pytheas Recordings
ESSENTIAL “Change of Time’’

Is Josh Ritter having an identity crisis? He is now 33 but writes in an artist statement that he recently stopped feeling joy in his career. Not to worry, though. The result is this quite sensational new album that not only purges the darkness, but marks the finest music he has made. Ritter’s to-hell-and-back journey is filled with remarkable sonic explorations, from the Leonard Cohen-influenced waltz of “The Curse’’ to the ambient “Lantern’’ and “Another New World.’’ The latter blends dreamy textures and stabbing piano notes from bandmate Sam Kassirer, who produced most of the album at his Great North Sound Society studio in Maine. Ritter, who came from Idaho and once lived in Somerville, is the son of two neuroscientists, so he has an academic penchant that led him to read many science books to aid the lyrics here. He gets carried away at times (what does “the tessellated blooms with the voids at their centers’’ mean?), but he also sings simply and wondrously about the power of love as a lifeline. He is fully rejuvenated when he hits the folkie finale of “Long Shadows,’’ with the line “If a long shadow falls across your heart/ I’ll be right here with you.’’ (Out now) -- STEVE MORSE