Review Summary: Horse Feathers takes your ears and mind to a distant, wintry location.
Album artwork can be utilized to accomplish a number of different things. It might be generally agreed upon that most artists aim to represent their music through the cover. However, a number of artists make them ironic, humorous, flashy, or appealing to one’s visual senses…hell, some musicians don’t even care in the slightest sense what shows up on the front of their records, so they leave it blank or slap a random picture on it that carries no meaning or insight whatsoever. Whatever the artist’s attitude ends up being, it is a relatively rare occurrence when the artwork invokes the exact style of the music that it represents. That is the case for Horse Feathers’ House With No Home
, a decidedly winter-themed, rural folk album that is every bit as charming and picturesque as the cover art would suggest.
House With No Home
is dominated by elegant strings, gently sung (sometimes whispered) vocals, and soft strumming acoustic guitars. It isn’t anything that avid fans of stripped-down indie haven’t heard before; everything on this album has already been performed in some fashion by the likes of Iron & Wine, Elliott Smith, or more particularly, Bon Iver. However, Horse Feathers pin down the indie-folk genre perfectly, and they experiment enough within that predetermined sound to make it their own. The stunning piano notes of “Helen” lend a bit of elegance to House With No Home
, while various horn sections in songs like “Father Reprise” can almost give the album a jazzy vibe. The female vocals come by way of cellist Heather Broderick, whose feminine touch only serves to expand on the record’s already extremely diverse sonic palette. Horse Feathers have an array of styles in their arsenal, and they utilize them all effectively here to create an ambient masterpiece that puts you right in the midst of the snowy farmstead depicted on the record’s cover.
The sensitive crooning of lead vocalist Justin Ringle also plays a valuable role in setting up the album’s snow globe atmosphere. His voice is smooth and sweet, with a slight tinge of reassuring familiarity to make the listener feel right at home. In fact, Ringle’s vocals are so soothing that they almost cover up the bleak, emotionally vacant lyrics that exist throughout House With No Home
. For as comforting as the record sounds
, its lyrics paint an entirely different portrait; one of angst, loneliness, and depression: “How our sun has gone away, there aren't days…there's just different gray.” The downtrodden lyrics are also reflected in the album’s title, one that seems to imply that it is some sort of emotional attachment that makes a home, not four walls and a roof. The notion stands to reason, but it is only depressing because Horse Feathers seem to spend the majority of the album lamenting on their inability to acquire that “at home” feeling. It is important to note, however, that the glum nature of the lyrics does not affect the album’s overall aura, which maintains an inviting personality thanks to the serene instrumentation.
To put it simply, House With No Home
is like a winter spent in the countryside. A fresh blanket of snow covers the hills…horse-drawn wagons trot along in the street, leaving a trail of tiny hoof prints behind…it’s very rural, it’s very wintry, and it’s all contained within a dense, tangible atmosphere. Careful acoustic strumming and swelling violin sections make the visualization of that atmosphere simple, all the while gracing your ears with some of the most breathtaking soundscapes to be found since Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago
. The music allows you feel every snowflake that lands on your face, as well as the glow and warmth of a fireplace as you settle into the most comfortable nook of your quaint log cabin. House With No Home
is, for all intents and purposes, a quintessential indie winter album that should not be overlooked by fans of soft, acoustic-driven music.