Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter spins tales of exploration and growth, stitching them together with details so minuscule that every character is a living, breathing apparition. Whether he's basking in alt-country (2000's Golden Age of Radio) or delivering rock-driven melodies (2007's The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter), the Idaho-born Ritter surveys his worldly curiosities through poetic lyricism and impeccable songcraft. He says So Runs the World Away was his most difficult album to make; it sure sounds like his most diverse. In the haunting, starkly percussive "Rattling Locks," Ritter barks "I'd rather spend another night in hell" as his band creates heat and tension. In the cheerfully poppy "Lark" and "Lantern," he sounds more hopeful. Best is "The Curse," a touching tale of an archeologist's love affair with a mummy — the surrealistic fiction awes with its beauty. Every track tells a separate story, inspired by bird hibernation, the golden ratio to Newton's studies, and other such subjects. Individually they impress, but as an album So Runs the World Away lacks the cohesion of Ritter's other work. It's hard to transition from a traditional folk tune like "Folk Bloodbath" to something like "Lark." With so much to take in, you might find the album as challenging as Ritter does. — Danielle Sills
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