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Horse Feathers release new album Appreciation 4th May via Kill Rock Stars

March 6, 2018

John W Clark

Horse Feathers
release new album Appreciation 
4th May via Kill Rock Stars
NPR premieres first single “Without Applause”

 

Portland based band Horse Feathers have announced the release of their forthcoming album Appreciation, out May 4 via Kill Rock Stars.

“Without Applause” is the first single taken from the album.  Justin Ringle has always had a knack for making beautiful music that contrasts with the darker concerns of his lyrics, in this case the lack of work, advancing age, and the lack of hope… “it’s not the drinking but the worry that does you in”. These bleak thoughts are couched in a singularly upbeat song in which Ringle’s new rhythm section shows off their Northern Soul sensibilities to great effect in a swirl of Hammond organ, strings, and horns that leaves the listener filled with joy and warmth.

NPR premiered “Without Applause” saying “It replaces Horse Feathers’ ornate deliberation with surging folk-rock that’s suffused with soul and just a hint of country.”

On Appreciation, their sixth full-length and the fifth on venerable independent label Kill Rock Stars, the signifiers of the band are there: Lead singer Justin 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.

“It just felt like a fresh take on how my songs can come across,” Ringle says.  “With this incarnation, it’s okay if what I’m doing right now is in fact kind of a pop song.  I can have a chorus and repeat something. I’m more aware of that and enjoy it.”

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