St. Albans-based trio House Horse are an organic, post-folk delight. Featuring the multi-instrumental and vocal talents of Joshua Givens, Jedd Kettler and Ben Maddox, this debut EP boasts a gorgeous, indie-goes-rustic sensibility. It's a rare release that hooks me on the first track. This one did.
Gently strummed acoustic guitar and muted electric piano announce the opening of "Glass of Wine." In an odd production choice, the tune features lightly distorted vocals. The effect only enhances the track's sinister beauty, however. With a buoyant bass line and cavernous percussion, the song provides a lush, if unsettling, ride through folk rock's darker avenues.
"Work Boots" floats from the speakers in delicate tonal tendrils. Pedal steel guitar intersects with workmanlike drumming and spare electric guitar. Warm, clear vocals sing of skeletons and the summer sun in an intoxicating mix of the everyday and the idyllic.
"Drunks need bars like mechanics need cars and romantics need stars," states the alt-country shuffle "Jesus Song No. 1." Nifty line, but what makes the song really interesting is an atonal organ lurking in the periphery like a madman. This juxtaposition of traditional song structure and avant-garde elements separate House Horse from other neo-Americana acts.
"Yonder Comes a Sucker" boasts an evocative electric guitar figure and hypnotic backing vocals. The tune is a testament to restraint; the empty spaces seem as important as the notes themselves. Although most of the song is subdued, the coda features a cyclical bass and guitar motif loaded with intricate trills. The part is all the more powerful because you don't expect it.
Closer "Paul Klee" sounds like something David Lowery might have written in his Camper van Beethoven days. The tune tells the tale of an aspiring bohemian who falls short of his artistic goals. I'm not sure what it has to do with the legendary expressionist painter, but with music this enticing, who cares?
House Horse win big with their patient interplay and smart arrangements. I'd love to hear them on a double bill with Burlington's ethereal rockers Swale. Who wants to set it up?