Horse Feathers feels like a secret you don’t really want to share. Over twelve years and five albums, a passionate fan base has experienced this band as a precious commodity that they want to keep close to their hearts. One reason for this can be found in lead singer Justin Ringle’s distinctive voice, at once vulnerable and piercing, and in the quality of the music: gorgeous, lush string arrangements surrounding stark, visceral lyrics whose bite makes a piquant juxtaposition to the surrounding beauty.
Now, however, Horse Feathers has created an album that differs enough from its predecessors to suggest that the cat might get out of the bag. On Appreciation, their sixth full-length and the fifth on venerable independent label Kill Rock Stars, the signifiers of the band are there: Ringle’s warm tenor and lyrics that speak of work, love, and other struggles. But on this album less of the song dynamics are achieved with strings and more with an exciting new rhythm section steeped in Northern Soul. Longtime violinist Nathan Crockett and keyboardist Dustin Dybvig provide continuity, but much of Appreciation feels like the best of Ringle’s previous musical ideas just took a giant step into a larger arena.
Recorded primarily in Kentucky (at La-La Land Studios in Louisville and Shangri-La Studios in Lexington), the new album features instrumentalists J. Tom Hnatow, Robby Cosenza and R&B vocalist Joslyn Hampton, who helped make Appreciation a mixture of strutting ‘70s-style country-pop (“Without Applause,” “Don’t Mean To Pry”) and supple soul (“Best To Leave,” “Evictions”). But Horse Feathers hasn’t gained accessibility at the expense of quality, nor at the expense of their signature instrumentation (“The Hex” might be the only R&B/soul song where the rhythmic lead is played on banjo). For those who crave what NPR called “the densely pretty seethe of Horse Feathers’ earlier ballads”, the album delivers “Born in Love” and “On the Rise”, accentuating the string surge with Hammond organ, piano, tambourine, and finger snaps.
THE LAST DINOSAUR
Jamie Cameron and Luke Hayden started The Last Dinosaur in 2006 after a bout of severe friendship. Shortly afterwards Rachel Lanskey joined and late night experimenting on a multitrack recorder produced the recordings that would eventually become 2010's Hooray! For Happiness, an album that The Line of Best Fit called "One of the most refreshing, creative and inventive records of the year."
Shortly before Hooray! For Happiness was released Jamie began work on follow up The Nothing, a collection of songs about mortality and coming to come to terms with the loss of his best friend after a severe car accident they experienced during his teenage years.
After seven years in the works the album was finally released in the summer of 2017 by Naim Records to critical acclaim (★★★★ - Uncut, ★★★★ - Mojo, ★★★★ - The Independent), has seen comparisons to Sparklehorse, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens, Gravenhurst and The Leisure Society, garnered radio support from Guy Garvey, Huey Morgan, Gideon Coe and Tom Robinson, and was selected for both Norman Records and Truck Store's Albums of the Year 2017 lists.