It's being touted as his 'breakthrough record'; the album that will propel him into the 'big time' (outside of the insular Irish Frames-adoring music community, that is), and the composition of work that will outdo his previous independently released material; but realistically, you shouldn't expect too much from Josh Ritter's 'The Animal Years'. His third full-length release - which will undoubtedly be largely critically-lauded - characterises precisely what most fail to notice about Ritter's music; its one-dimensional, generic themes and its routine predictability. Songs like opener Girl In The War, a plodding attempt at a political commentary (on the Iraqi war, what else?) have been done before and done better, while Idaho, a sparse exercise in a cappella confirms that Ritter's voice is neither individual nor interesting enough to remain engrossing for three minutes. There are some half-decent tracks here, nevertheless - Monster Ballads' use of the Hammond organ provides a welcome respite from the endless acoustic plucking, as do the harmonies and electricity of Lillian, Egypt or the gleeful Americana of In The Dark. Overall though, Ritter remains stuck on the same page, reciting the same formula and failing, in the process, to interest the casual observer. Ardent fans will adore this, of course, and it will probably sell by the barn-load; but it simply doesn't have any of the rough country charm or the atmospheric pep that his debut The Golden Age of Radio was litterered with. Newcomers who insist on listening to an American folk singer would be better steered toward Elliott Smith or even Ryan Adams's latest. Josh Ritter, however, remains one solely for the college crowd.. and the easily pleased.