Horse Feathers
Cynic's New Year


3.5
great

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
April 17th, 2012 | 21 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Horse Feathers keep soothing souls with their unhurried, threadbare take on indie-folk.

Horse Feathers’ work has always contained a mixture of conflicting emotions. From the elegant and lush strings to the underlying sense of turmoil, each album has taken polar opposite moods and harmonized them. While their lyrics suggest depression or isolation, the music surrounds its listeners with stripped-down rural folk that is so serene you almost can’t help but sink into your favorite couch cushion and sip on some hot cocoa. Thus, it comes bearing a lot of questions worth asking…does this band create warm, inviting albums or ones that are full of angst and glum introspection? Is frontman Justin Ringle filling us with his love or is he composing massive, tragic symphonies one release at a time? The answer to this question may actually lie in Cynic’s New Year, where Ringle proclaims, “beauty and loss, they are one and the same” – a notion indicating that Horse Feathers’ fourth studio album is a conscious attempt to fuse the two into something that is simultaneously gorgeous and melancholic.

To an extent, Horse Feathers succeed. Cynic’s New Year is a delicate but sprawling record, slowly revealing its musical and lyrical depth as it unravels one track at a time. The sincerity put forth in songs such as ‘Last Waltz’ and ‘Nearly Old Friends’ is undeniable, presenting stunningly picturesque atmospheres comparable to Bon Iver and acoustic passages similar to the earliest works of Iron & Wine. There is also a deliberate patience that causes the album to plod along like a horse-drawn carriage, which isn’t always a bad thing. On ‘Better Company’ - easily Cynic’s New Year’s best song and perhaps Horse Feathers’ greatest achievement altogether - the slow progression that characterizes most of the record glows with a newfound sense of purpose. The band’s swelling strings have never sounded more poignant, and Ringle’s falsetto vocals finally reach the same caliber as the instrumentation. The result is a rustic gem of a folk song that should haunt listeners all the way to their “best of 2012” lists. Even when Cynic’s New Year’s best moments come to an end, they linger with a resounding echo of satisfaction, helping to color the less impressive tracks in between while resulting in a more cohesive experience.

The primary drawback here is that even though the album does occasionally ascend to great heights, it spends at least the same amount of time strolling through monotonous buildups that never really reach their destinations. What’s worse is that the majority of these moments come in the first half of Cynic’s New Year, an unfortunate track placement that could turn off less patient listeners before the far more impressive second half. ‘A Heart Arcane’, while pleasant enough, sounds too much like ‘So Long’ and ‘Where I’ll Be’ – all of which utilize similar progressions and identical sounding strings that power their way to the forefront of the mix, drowning out a lot of other contributions in the acoustic guitar and vocal departments. Luckily, some of the tedium is overshadowed by Ringle’s thoughtful lyrics – but even they aren’t enough to hide the lack of variation that exists on Cynic’s New Year. This isn’t a new problem for Horse Feathers, considering that their slow, drawn-out approach and stripped-down instrumentation has always lent their albums a cyclical feel. Nevertheless, it is an issue that needs rectifying if they are ever to create something in a different vein; because right now they are relying on the same formula as they did with Thistled Spring, House With No Home, and Words Are Dead. Eventually the novelty will wear out, which would be a real shame considering how Horse Feathers currently stands out amongst a sea of indecipherable peers.

In the end, Cynic’s New Year ends up being a typical Horse Feathers album. Of course, that’s pretty much ubiquitously a compliment, although it leaves a void to be filled for their next endeavor. For those of you who embrace the minimalist philosophy “less is more”, the hushed nature of this album will find a permanent place in your rotation. However, for those hoping that this would be Horse Feathers’ breakthrough album, you will be kept waiting for a least a little while longer. As of now, Cynic’s New Year gives us yet another enjoyable release from one of the most consistent indie-folk acts around.



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user ratings (16)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 16th 2012


15980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well this is just great...found a couple mistakes in my review and sputnik won't let me edit it. Will fix up that closing paragraph when it stops being weird.

Album is streaming here for those interested :]

http://www.npr.org/2012/04/08/149850614/first-listen-horse-feathers-cynics-new-year?ps=mh_fl

Digging: Maybeshewill - Fair Youth

cb123
April 16th 2012


2016 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

cool, nice review, will check this out, really like these guys

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2012


7275 Comments


Sounds interesting. Is this better than Of Monsters and Men, though? Pos from the heart, anyway =)

Digging: U2 - Songs of Innocence

TheGardener
April 17th 2012


150 Comments


Definitely checking this out.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2012


23818 Comments


not a huge fan of what I've heard from this band but review was gooood (I only skimmed it but yeah seems legit). Sowing's reviews >>> other Sowing posts.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2012


15980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haha cheers aids

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2012


15980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

if nothing else guys listen to better company

song doesn't folk around

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2012


15980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

House With No Home is their best album IMO

DeafMetal
April 19th 2012


8588 Comments


nice cant weight 2 hear dis

Digging: Hawkwind - Space Ritual

Waior
April 19th 2012


11451 Comments


one of my favourite bands. i'm super excited

Waior
April 19th 2012


11451 Comments


house with no home is one my favourites

play a lot of songs off of that one at shows actually

show chill

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2012


15980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yo caleb listen to "better company" if you get the chance

fucking awesome atmosphere that song has

Ire
April 22nd 2012


41779 Comments


focus is better?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2012


15980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

focus?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2012


15980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

oh. ok.

ha. ha.

sailsandsaints
May 15th 2012


13 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great band, great review

cb123
July 11th 2012


2016 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

finally got round to listening to this, these guys just keep chugging along putting out really nice consistent albums

Killerhit
April 25th 2013


5250 Comments


this is also very good god love it

CosmicPie
August 10th 2013


1078 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review, and I dig your style. You actually sound like you have a genuine understanding of this music. I have the album sitting in my library awaiting listening. This band has an undeniable smoothness.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2013


15980 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks, it's been a while since I've spun this but it's quite good in the right atmosphere



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