Horse Feathers Cynic's New Year

Horse FeathersCynic's New Year
While many modern folk bands are adding excessive instrumentation and recruiting more players than the max capacity of an elevator, Horse Feathers have reined things in. The Portland, OR band's fourth album, Cynic's New Year, is a full-band affair but often feels like a solo venture for frontman Justin Ringle – the songs sink or swim under his watch. Opener "A Heart Arcane" is warm and inviting, a dead ringer for Canadian counterparts Great Lake Swimmers. "Better Company" is more menacing, a demonstration of how Ringle can move effortlessly between moods without drastically changing his sound. Elsewhere, Ringle could have put his band to better use. "Fit Against the Country" is the only track with consistent percussion and the momentum that choice provides is essential to its effect. Beautiful instrumental "Elegy for Quitters" gives Horse Feathers' immensely talented string players a chance to shine, but elsewhere they mostly colour in the space around Ringle's minimalist songs. Above all, Cynic's New Year sounds incredible; its production quality alone is worth several listens. When Ringle puts more faith in his fellow band members, he might craft songs that match that aesthetic quality. (Kill Rock Stars)