Thursday, September 11, 2008

Review: Horse Feathers - House With No Home (* * * * 1/2)

I'm not sure what the deal is with all of these amazing folk albums being released this year. Maybe I'm just paying more attention, or perhaps the folk music movement is gaining momentum, or maybe the muses have been working overtime to bring us such an impressive array of quality tunes. Whatever the reason, 2008 has been a great year so far, and with this new release by Horse Feathers it gets even better.

Justin Ringle, the singing/songwriting force behind Horse Feathers, sings and writes in a style reminiscent of many past and present folk artists, including Bon Iver and Iron & Wine. Like them, Ringle is primarily concerned with creating mood and atmosphere to make impressions. However, instead of completely embracing music in loneliness and isolation like so many of his peers, he works closely with people like multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick to arrange and fill out his otherwise sparse acoustic songs with violin, cello and banjo, enhancing the gorgeous melodies and haunting vocals.

The resulting bittersweet sound pervades the album's 11 tracks. Sadness, anger and frustration all take their turn, but never depression. While a few songs, like "Heathen's Kiss," the album's most tense track, sound genuinely dark, somehow Ringle allows the feeling of peace to distill the more disquieting moments, as on the gentle "Helen" and the rollicking "This Is What. The songs swell gently, building momentum and then subsiding as if being exhaled. Ringle's soft tenor voice is just strong enough to carry emotional weight, and at times he almost fades into the background with his songs. Occasionally, cellist Heather Broderick brings further beauty with some well-placed vocal harmony, as on "Working Poor," a definite highlight.

House With No Home requires a certain amount of attention to be fully enjoyed, but with each careful listen the songs appreciate. Horse Feathers have created a truly unique and stunning experience; a quiet triumph that should not be overlooked.

Favorite Tracks: "Rude to Rile, "Working Poor," "This Is What"


James said...

Looks like you're off to a good start Chris...this album sounds like it would be right up my alley and I haven't heard it yet.

By the way - if you're hesitant about posting mp3s (I was when I started out) many bands have them that you can link directly to either on their site or the Okkervil River has Lost Coastlines at Jagjaguwar, etc....good luck with the site!