What I’m Listening To: Horse Feathers – Thistled Spring

Written By Simon Chisholm

‘Thistled Spring’ is Portland Oregon band Horse Feathers’ third studio album. Encompassing their indie folk style, Horse Feathers’ latest release sees them metaphorically thaw from their 2008 effort and embrace the changing landscape of the Spring.

Horse Feathers was introduced to me through the often-annoying ‘Recommended Videos’ sidebar on YouTube, while checking out Chaz Knapp’s band ‘Our Brother The Native’. I must have liked what I saw on that sleepless night, because not long after, I purchased the CD, without fully knowing into what I was investing. I would be lying if I said that was a terrible idea.

‘Thistled Spring’ is a chilled out, relaxing folk record that is sad and sombre, yet uplifting. It features dynamic melodies and accompaniment that are strangely hypnotic, lulling the listener into a comfortable state of mind. The songs flow easily from one to another, taking the listener along for the ride.

The layered instrumentation is sparse but effective. The layers build with the ebb and flow of the track, which is enhanced by the large amount of dynamic range. Harmonic change is used to create dramatic changes in the arrangements. It is the use of repetition of ostinatos that lulls the listener. The use of motifs on the piano and strings creates interest by providing accents, acting as a response to the vocal and moving the track forward.

The instrumentation has a very organic tone and includes; Piano, Violin/Fiddle, Cello, Banjo, some Percussion (Tambourine, Clicks, Crash Cymbals, Bass Drum, Glockenspiel), Acoustic Guitar, and Electric Guitar (Check the credits below for a full list). Each of the instrumental parts has a relatively simple part to play in each track, but in this case, the simplicity is all the more effective. There are a number of performance techniques used on each element of instrumentation, most noticeable on the strings.

Vocalist Justine Ringle sings metaphorically about love, springtime landscapes, drought and floods in his characteristic soothing, melancholy drawl. The vocal is not lazy, and it is not over dramatic. It is executed in such a way that keeps the listener engaged, without chewing up and swallowing the eardrums. Ringle’s voice has a strangely soothing tone colour. Counter melodies are provided by the strings, dancing around Ringle’s flowing vocal.

My overall thought of ‘Thistled Spring’ is that is just so relaxing. It’s like listening to the wind and rain tell you an epic story on a particularly refreshing springtime evening after hot, hard-working day and a hearty meal.

Horse Feathers is:

Justine Ringle – Vocals, Guitar,

Nathan Crockett – Violin, Saw, Vocals

Catherine Odell – Cello, Vocals

Also on Thistled Spring:

Sam Cooper – Banjo, Mandolin, Piano, Vocals, Harmonium, Accordion, Violin, Percusion

Lisa Molinaro – Viola

Victor Nash – Trumpet, French Horn

Released in 2010 by Kill Rock Stars.

What I’m Listening To: Horse Feathers – Thistled Spring