Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Horse Feathers profiles a rotating cast of musicians strewn together by Justin Ringle, who provides lead vocals as well as guitar and percussion to the outfit. With a backbone of backwoods folk heavily laden with strings, Horse Feathers turned from a solo project into a troupe when Ringle teamed up with Peter Broderick (Norfolk & Western) around 2005. After spending the greater part of a year writing and playing shows in Portland, the team recorded and released their debut Words Are Dead in 2006.
For Horse Feathers’s fourth album, Ringle scouted local musicians to add piano, reeds, banjo, and steel to Cynic’s New Year, adding multiple layers to the band’s generally solemn tone. The album feels a lot like floating down a lazy river, easing you into the meat of the tracks, then carefully escorting you back to shore. Described as having “androgynous sounding” vocals, Ringle’s loftiness is a complementary pairing to the somber sound of his music. Horse Feathers are simple in the simplest terms. Its rawness sometimes leaves that masochistic part of you craving something jagged or sharp just to break from the flow of slow-jam folk rock, but that would completely defy what the band stands for.
They’re not here to blow you out of your pants nor feed you cryptic verses that leave you questioning what you just listened to. Horse Feathers are rugged in their own way and that little bit of an edge is enough for me.