The band is back after an 18-month, soul-searching hiatus. Justin Ringle, the group's clear-voiced singer, guitarist and principal songwriter, stepped away after too many years of uneasy, dark and let's just say less-than-optimistic songwriting. The new record is lighter than anything Horse Feathers have done before, though by no means bereft of seriousness and melancholy.
They've also opened up the sound here, adding more percussion than ever before, and it works beautifully with the arrangements without compromising the soft and soulful sound listeners have come to expect. Horse Feathers have been asked in the past if they wouldn't mind shaking things up a bit, maybe break a string here or there, and the first track, "Violently Wild," which is neither, might be their tongue-in-cheek answer. Meanwhile, the decidedly upbeat "Thousand" and "Old Media" might be the closest this band's going to get to outright jamming.
Standout tracks "Middle Testament" and "What We Become" are perfect examples of the territory, new and old, to which this über-talented group have staked a claim. Horse Feathers are among the best at what they do, and So It Is With Us deserves serious consideration for folk album of the year. (Kill Rock Stars)