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Friday, May 17, 2024

Record Routine: Horse Feathers display a new energy on So It Is With Us

The fifth installment of Portland-based Horse Feathers, So It Is With Us, is Justin Ringle’s attempt to shed the skin of the folk-heavy albums that came before and open up Horse Feathers to something a little more upbeat and fun.

He admitted in an interview with Folk Radio this August that he “ended the year 2012 disillusioned and defeated … After an arduous period of self-doubt and discovery, I finally arrived at the enlightened idea that maybe it should just be a little more fun. I had grown weary of talking to people after shows who said that my last record ‘helped them through their divorce.’ I have always been flattered by that sort of thing, but I realized what I wanted to hear was how my last record helped them ‘have a great weekend.’” Though I don’t know how many crazy fun weekends So It Is With Us will inspire, it is most definitely a step in the right direction.

The opening track and the album’s first single is the most in-your-face example of change in the band. “Violently Wild” is a feel-good Americana tune with gorgeous vocals by Ringle and a rejuvenating declaration that “we have just begun.”

The following tracks, “Thousand” and “Dead End Thanks,” are a bit more slow, but keep the positive image of “Violently Wild” with a light, bluegrassy string section by Nathan Crockett and Lauren Vidal. Coming later on the album, “Old Media” is a classic rock jam with high points that lift you up and a percussion section—courtesy of Dustin Dybvig—which is unmatched by any other track on the album.

“Why Do I Try,” “Small Melody” and “The Knee” relapse to Ringle’s sad, somewhat hopeless style of lyricism, straddling frustration and giving up. However, they showcase his impressive vocals, which we miss in some of the more up-tempo tracks. “The Knee” has the most powerful lyrics on So It Is With Us, narrating the story of someone at rock bottom with gut-wrenching yet unapologetic lines like “a man works just to put his pain up his nose” and “there’s no forecasted grief in picking pockets from a thief softly screaming ‘woe is me.’”

The last track juxtaposes this desire to give up with an inspiring call to take responsibility for one’s life and act. Ringle argues “it’s not how much you love, it’s how much you try” then declares “I won’t get down on my luck or down on my knees.”

With lyrics like these backed by amazing instrumentals, it sounds like Ringle’s Horse Feathers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Rating: B

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