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Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, The Milk Carton Kids

Romantic splits rarely inspire happy songs, and this fact makes Josh Ritter’s newest release, The Beast in its Tracks, surprising: despite being inspired by his own divorce in 2011, the majority of the record is remarkably hopeful. The ethereal strummer “New Lover” sees him congratulating his ex on finding a new lover, while the upbeat folk track “Joy to You Baby” sounds like it was written during a fit of healthy relationship-induced euphoria. The easygoing folk track “A Certain Light” offers only a sly allusion, with the lyric, “I’m happy for the first time in a long time.” It is a testament to Ritter’s artistic boldness and maturity that he can achieve catharsis, move forward and overcome heartbreak all in one record.