Independent - 2006 - 49 minutes

Elevated by many to (adopted) national treasure status way before the release of 2003's 'Hello Starling', 'The Animal Years' shows that, even with his huge popularity in Ireland, Ritter will find plenty more room to roam in people's record collections.

While most artists would donate body parts for the ability to cross over to different age groups and audiences, Ritter, intact, shows that he's up to the challenge. Of the two standout tracks here, 'Wolves' belies its disconsolate lyrics with a feelgood gallop while 'Thin Blue Flame' is a politicised epic that exemplifies Ritter's gifts as a lyricist. 

Elsewhere 'The Animal Years' is beautifully crafted but suffers from relying too much on the same slowed-down pace when what it needed was more songs with the swing of 'Wolves' and 'Lillian, Egypt'. That said, there's not a weak track here and Ritter's intimacy will eventually come to move you on each of them.

A fine travelling companion to listen to, and one that's made for the long haul.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Girl in the War - Wolves - Monster Ballads - Lillian, Egypt - Idaho - In the Dark - One More Mouth - Good Man - Best for the Best – Thin Blue Flame - Here at the Right Time