Review : Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring
PopmattersHorse Feathers’ last record, House With No Home, was very much a winter record. The thinned-out frosty compositions, the chilly melancholy, even the cover art all showed off a band who played beautifully and insistently, even as they could see their own breath. Thistled Spring contains nearly the same elements—string-driven folk songs, sweetly hushed vocals, spare, if any, percussion—and yet it gives us a much warmer sound. This is, as the title implies, the sound of rebirth. But how did they manage this shift with the same pieces in place?
One answer comes in an addition to the recording team. Touring multi-instrumentalist Sam Cooper joins the trio on this record, and while he doesn’t change the make-up of these songs, he does add a lush warmth to them. The simmering piano on the title track fills it out beautifully, even as singer Justin Ringle trails his words back to the last album, singing of a “house that’s a tomb”. Later on, Banjo plinks lightly over the low roll of Ringle’s guitar on “Vernonia Blues”, giving off a livelier sound than anything on House With No Home. In other spots, Cooper spins guitar lines around Ringle, or weaves tiny, precise sounds through the haze of strings floated out there by Nathan Crockett and Catherine Odell. This combination, the playful and sharp amid all the blurry wandering, proves an affecting mix, one that feels more built-up, more expansive and intricate than the band’s previous work....full text
PrefixmagThe title track kicks off Thistled Spring with a simple piano melody that builds to a gorgeous orchestral swell. The soulful but somber vocals of songwriter Jason Ringle further herald this song of wary rejuvenation. Horse Feathers' previous record, House With No Home, explored darker themes, but Thistled Spring seems to contend that the evidence for both loss and hope lie in the mundane, the hardly noticed.
The Portland, Ore., band leans heavily on country instruments like banjo and fiddle, which give songs like “Starvive Robins” and “Belly of June” an ancient feel. For a record that slowly begins to feel like an ode to a season of change, other songs like “As a Ghost” and “This Bed” appropriately evoke the cycles of death and rebirth that occur yearly inside and outside the home. Ringle has a flair for the spare poetic line, and his semi-falsetto turns those lines into haunting, but life-giving portraits of what can be seen -- and relied on -- with proper attention....full text
EachnotesecureI remember the first time I listened to Horse Feathers. I was driving south on I-71 heading to Louisville, Kentucky and it was the kind of morning where when the sun rises, it immediately wakes you up to the day. I was awoken to Justin Ringle and his unique and soothing vocals that morning, with their second album House With No Home.
It’s only natural that my anticipation for a new Horse Feathers album would be high after that memorable experience. After all, I not only fell in love with House With No Home, but I went out and bought it and it’s predecessor Words Are Dead on vinyl and became a full fledged fan. So I have to admit, my expectations for Thistled Spring, the latest album from this Portland band, were pretty high. Maybe a little too high, because after all, I had an unreal expectation for the new album, expecting another awakening I guess, or at least something to shake the funk I am currently in when it comes to new music.
Thistled Spring may not be able to meet my admittedly unfair expectations, but deserves it’s share of praise as well. After all, the new album seems to be an awakening for the band in many ways. The songs of despair that we fell for on House With No Home, with it’s hollowed out winter landscape on the cover, seem to be reborn on Thistled Spring, which in many ways feels like the sprouts of green popping up in early March throughout the midwest....full text
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