February 27, 2013

Introducing: Fuel/Friends Album Club #1 – The Beast In Its Tracks


I am unveiling something new here at Fuel/Friends today that I hope will become a new regular feature, linking us together in the dogged and thoughtful pursuit of music that means something to us personally.

Josh Ritter‘s team and I have come up with an idea to create a new endeavor called the Fuel/Friends Album Club, modeled after a book club. I am looking for five to ten thoughtful readers who would like to listen to & absorb the intimate, personal new Josh Ritter record with me, help come up with some questions for Josh about the album (which he will answer on my site) and then everyone in the Fuel/Friends Album Club gets to come to Josh’s show at Denver’s Ogden Theatre on March 27, with time to meet & talk with Josh.

The Beast In Its Tracks (out next week) is a striking record, and there are many threads to discuss. You can stream the entire album here on NPR this week, and you should do that. Everyone picked for Album Club gets the new record from me for free.

Interested in being considered for Album Club? Please email me ASAP. (edit: I’ve got more than enough wonderful entrants. Thanks!)

I am also very deeply pleased to feature this piece of guest writing today.

icon_thatwascoolTHE BEAST IN ITS TRACKS: a hyper-personal review

written by An Anonymous, Sweet Friend of Heather’s

It is a weird thing to be scared to press play on a record, especially when you love music, but that’s where I found myself with Josh Ritter’s new album The Beast In Its Tracks. See, I had just lived the stories I knew it contained, just had the love of my life leave, just had my world flipped upside down and lit on fire, and I wasn’t sure I was in a place where I could handle having those tales sung back to me. A funny thing happened, though, when I did finally scrape together the courage to hit play: I found the entire thing comforting, despite verse after verse that rehashed what had just hurt me so badly- I’ve stood in that cold, lonely kitchen he describes in ‘Hopeful,’ been unable to say her name because of it catching in my throat like in ‘New Lover,’ and been scared of each coming night like Ritter in ‘Nightmares.’

There’s a weird comfort in knowing you’re not the only one to live something, that those feelings you’re consumed by and which swing wildly and without warning aren’t out of the ordinary. The album is a lot of things- devastating, honest, raw, angry, heartbreaking, and full of grace- but the idea that Ritter’s story, and by extension, mine, has a happy ending is what sticks with me each time through, that this winter of discontent will end and that love, which I still believe in despite all that’s happened, will win out in the end. When you’re struggling with heartbreak, and the times are dark, it’s tough to allow that hope in, to allow yourself the belief that you will build a strong, rich life on your own out of the ashes of your old life and the pain and confusion that inhabits the new, foreign life you’ve been forced to start.

The Beast In Its Tracks is a focused, stunning piece of work, a collection of songs about a heart breaking and healing that manages to never crush itself under the weight of its sad, heavy subject. It’s an album that pushed me to a limit I didn’t want to test — and ended up showing me that I, and indeed all of us, will be fine in the end, that a happy conclusion isn’t such a far-fetched idea.


  • So Excited! Such a great idea and an amazing opportunity. Email sent!

    Lindsay — February 27, 2013 @ 7:09 am

  • Cool concept! But…what if we don’t live anywhere near Denver? Does it only make sense to be in the club if we’d be able to make it to shows near you?

    Allie — February 27, 2013 @ 7:10 am

  • You constantly make me wish I lived near Denver. I would love to join this club. I am loving this album. I can’t wait to see him (twice!) in April!

    Claire Helene — February 27, 2013 @ 7:17 am

  • Stoked! Email sent! Love what you’re doing for the Colorado music scene.

    Jon Jon w — February 27, 2013 @ 7:34 am

  • Stoked! Email sent! Love what you’re doing for the Colorado music scene.

    Jon Jon w — February 27, 2013 @ 7:34 am

  • as ritter has done, you’ve further reinforced “that weird comfort in knowing you’re not the only one.” thank you, sweet friend of heather’s, for sharing.

    rick — February 27, 2013 @ 8:06 am

  • I’ve long found depressing music, well, not depressing and I think it comes down to that line Heather’s friend says, “that weird comfort in knowing you’re not the only one.”

    Adrian — February 27, 2013 @ 9:38 am

  • Damn the 1200 miles between Grand Rapids, MI and Denver, CO. This sounds amazing. I Wish I was closer to partake!

    Logan — February 27, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  • Good idea. Shame most of continental USA, Atlantic Ocean, Ireland, Irish Sea and most of the UK lies between me and Denver. :(
    Thanks for the link. I started listening, but my stream is constantly stopping, and that’s not the way I want to hear this album for the first time. I’ll have the CD dropping on my doorstep in a few days so that’s something to look forward to.
    Josh has relatively few fans in the UK, and consequently doesn’t do many shows. I really like his music, and he’s one of the few artists whose albums I will buy without hearing a track or two first. Just as well as he seems to get zero airplay on uk radio.
    I look forward to hearing all your opinions soon.
    I may have a question or two for Josh after hearing the album, but it may be too late by then.
    Good luck with the club.

    CJFeeney — February 27, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

  • Just like the earlier comment, I may be a bit far from Denver too. I live in France and the last time Josh came here, he was opening for The Swell Season (2 or 3 years ago). As I told him then, we’re still expecting for a full show with his band.
    May your club with foreign listeners send Josh to our side of the Atlantic.

    (I think I should have written in french to avoid mistakes)

    Fabrice — February 28, 2013 @ 3:11 am

  • You rock! This is a great idea, Heather. Let me know how it goes. I imagine it’ll take off with you at the helm.

    Chris — February 28, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

  • Heather,
    I found your review strikingly spot-on. I, too, have been afraid to listen to the new album, not because of recent events but because of the way that Josh’s music has so touched me in the past. I feel like I have such a personal relationship with his prose and his heartfelt interpretation of them that, if I were to be disappointing in his newest endeavors, I would be nothing but heartbroken for different reasons than the literal translations of the songs!
    I am sad that I missed the opportunity to “album club” this with you, but I will look forward now to listening to the album, albeit tentatively!
    That said, I am counting down the days until I see Josh live in April!

    Tricia — March 3, 2013 @ 10:29 am

  • [...] It’s all been here on the blog- every day of it, from start to finish, but you didn’t know (though I had a friend figure it out before I actually told them, just based on the songs) (also: sorry about that winter mix last year- that was brutal). But now you know. And now I can maybe make it a little more personal around here again- things won’t be going full-bore emo or anything, but I’ll try to start to talk about real reasons for connections to songs instead of just saying ‘Hey, this is real good,’ which has sort of become my standard out (to be clear: I do think all those songs that I have essentially posted only ‘Hey, this is real good’ with are, in fact, real good, BUT there’s probably more to it than that, so I’ll start to make an effort to let on a little more). And, finally, I can now let you know how I really feel about the new Josh Ritter album, the one that came along at exactly the right moment and got me through the real tough times. See, I did write about it, just not with my name attached for all to see, because I wasn’t ready. Now I am, and you can read the words I wrote about an album that’s meant the world to me right here. [...]

    a quick note… | songsfortheday — August 4, 2013 @ 8:47 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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