Horse Feathers – Thistled Spring [Album Review]

by oz on April 26, 2010

horse feathers

If you want to fast dance, Horse Feathers isn’t your band. But much like The Tallest Man On Earth’s The Wild Hunt, Thistled Spring is the perfect companion for our changeover to the Spring season. Nowhere is it more evident than in the first strikes of piano keys and lyrics in the opening title track:

An old love of mine to wed the worst man she finds.
A blossom that’s bloomed, in a house that’s a tomb,
trapped in the rhododendron fumes.

Bit by the Spring,
Hurt by the thing,
Plagued by the memories
that it brings.

Please excuse the single tear running down my cheek. It’s the record high pollen count. I swear.

If you’ve been a fan of Horse Feathers over the past few years, Thistled Spring marks a subtle progression. The band is still led by multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter, Justin Ringle, but it feels like Horse Feathers are maturing as a band and finding equal balance. Arrangements are more sophisticated on Thistled Spring and Nathan Crocket, Catherine Odell and Sam Cooper feel more like equal parts. The end result is an album with refined brilliance.

It’s actually a hard phenomenon to describe, but it hit me today on my drive to work. If you strip away the vocals and songwriting, the album would still stand up as an instrumental piece. And it would still be captivating. Horse Feathers throws the instrumental book at their music, complete with guitar, piano, glockenspiel, violin, viola, saw, banjo, mandolin, harmonium, accordion and trumpet. They push boundaries and extend the folk genre into something more orchestral and classical.

I could have reviewed Thistled Spring by using words typically reserved for wine: Full bodied. Balanced. Smooth. Mellow. Vigorous. Fruity. Elegant. Distinctive. It also has an incredibly beautiful finish in my favorite song, “Heaven’s No Place”:

With these hearts so loud their beating’s heard,
Like the wings of a trapped injured bird,
The more we love a lie it’s coming true
It’s burning our minds thinking it through.

Dear lonely man the reason you are stunned,
You’re born to a town that always eats it’s young
With a pious patience please wait for that wife
By winter’s end you may come back to life.

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Horse Feathers – Belly of June

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody April 26, 2010 at 7:11 am

Great disc and you are right on so many fronts. The music would hold up on its own. Also, there is definite yet subtle growth on this disc that really is something else.

Chris P April 26, 2010 at 9:10 am

Really enjoying this album, they were a ton of fun to watch at Schuba’s this past week, thanks fellas

Dustin Roberts April 26, 2010 at 11:44 am

Agreed. I knew you would be reviewing this album soon. “This Bed”, “The Drought”, and “The Widower”, and “Heaven’s No Place” all jumped off the record and stood out. Great recommendation. Thanks!!

Cowbelle April 27, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Great review. It is a subtle progression but not a departure. These guys are great live. They are pretty quiet, but they kept a Portland audience quiet and rapt for over an hour, which is a major accomplishment.

Gayle June 1, 2010 at 5:34 am

You don’t know how cathartic it is to hear you shed a tear too! Before I could even deciminate the lyrics, the music brought me to tears. I adore Belly of June and this review!

Thanks so much!

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