Review Summary: Hot summer nights and nostalgic childhood memories.
“Horse feathers” is certainly an interesting moniker for Oregon’s Justin Ringle and Peter Broderick. Coined circa 1970, the term was used to denounce something as unbelievable nonsense, or in other words, utter bull***. This is somewhat strange, as the first thing you notice when playing Words Are Dead
for the first time is the heart-wrenching honesty the record possesses. Bearing the same relaxed feel as its folk contemporaries (see: Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, etc.), this gorgeous debut is a truly overlooked album full of Americana-laced gold.
The band was originally founded as a singer-songwriter project, and it shows with each song distinctly driven by Ringle’s truthful lyrics, soft voice and warm guitar chords. Broderick contributes just as significantly, lending his skillful violin lines and other talents to compliment Ringle perfectly. Opener “Hardwood Pews” showcases the best of both; beginning subdued and sparse with just a simple sung melody, it continues to grow into a wonderfully composed ending. An uplifting fiddle soars above a soulful musical saw and piano to create one of the most beautiful and emotional moments on the record. The pleasant “Finch on Saturday” introduces a much more lighthearted approach that once again showcases a lovely reoccurring violin line and a bright vocal melody. The lyrics concern Ringle’s faith, in which he croons:
Boys, they've got wicked things on their minds.
Before the father said you're toein' the line.
Like a finch on Saturday, sin with wings.
Give your tongue to God, on Sunday sing.
Due to the acoustic nature of the record, it tends to play through seamlessly to the point where it becomes slightly uniform. Tracks can sometimes become undistinguishable from one another, but there are enough changes in mood and tempo to prevent the album from becoming arduous. “Falling Through The Roof”, a track built around a marching beat and staccato strings, and “Untitled”, a nice little piano interlude, both provide enough variation to keep things sounding fresh and interesting. All the songs are very short in length, with the longest clocking in at just 4:36 seconds. The album may have benefit with the loss of one or two tracks, but the quality never dips enough to warrant the cut of any in particular.
Words Are Dead
is one of those albums that is so easy to love. Reminiscent of hot summer nights and nostalgic childhood memories, it really is quite special. A warm and minimalistic nature, Ringle’s delicate vocals and Broderick's lush arrangements make for an incredibly easy and relatable listen, and one which deserves success.
Recommended songs include:
Finch on Saturday
Walking and Running