Portland, Oregon's Horse Feathers issued a slept-on commercially but critically well liked debut album in 2006 called Words Are Dead, and in the two years since they've added third member Heather Broderick, brother of multi-instrumentalist Peter. As a result, they're sound has been slightly fleshed out on sophomore album House With No Home, as the band incorporates acoustic guitar, banjo, violin and cello to soothingly morose effect. There's still no percussion in sight, but singer-songwriter Justin Ringle's songs still feel broader than the debut's ultra sparse arrangements. Every instrument is still spaced in the mix just right, allowing Ringle's light-as-air vocals to dance softly above the Americana-steeped instrumentation. Horse Feathers conjure a dark and cold sound on House With No Home, perfectly represented by the beautifully evocative cover art.
For better or worse though, the Iron & Wine comparisons still prove apt. Ringle's voice sometimes skirts eerily close to Sam Beam's gentle quaver, while the vast, empty landscapes that the music brings to mind has a similar feel to that of The Creek Drank the Cradle. Even with the added instrumentation, and this being only their second album, Horse Feathers haven't experienced the musical growth that Beam hasn't exhibited over the course of his last couple records. Still, this is a record filled with a chilling atmosphere and subtle melodies that slowly reveal themselves over close listens. Opener "Curs in the Weeds" is probably the best Horse Feathers song to date, beginning sparsely, only to slowly add quietly soaring cello and strings under Ringle and Heather Broderick's whispered harmonies. Songs that stick to this slow build and coast formula work best, as "Helen" and "Heathen's Kiss" so nicely demonstrate. Beyond these standouts though, the uniform mood and sound of House With No Home force these songs to blend into blurry whole. The haunting melodies and ominous sound of the record are enough to separate this band from the fold though, and as sophomore album go, this one is solid.
Highlights: "Curs in the Weeds", "Heathen's Kiss"
RIYL: Iron & Wine, Vetiver, Bowerbirds
"Curs in the Weeds"
"Rude to Rile"