Horse Feathers Thistled Spring

Rising out of Portland, OR's folk scene are Horse Feathers, with yet another brilliant offering by Justin Ringle. For this third full-length release, he's backed by a cast of multi-instrumentalists, including a string quartet on the title-track. Thistled Spring's orchestral folk embraces swooping string phrases in just the right measure, building to moving crescendos then gently bringing you down again. Well placed pauses between the songs' sparse percussion, tiptoeing banjo arpeggios and introspective verses build anticipation. Despite featuring songs with a more jovial rhythm than those of previous albums, it's the quiet breaks and Justin Ringle's anguished singing that resonate emotionally. Romantic sorrow bleeds out of every note to break your heart and inspire visions of thistles and thorns that usher in blooms — always just beyond your reach — like safety, or truth, or simply a kiss. Easily a folk favourite for 2010, Thistled Spring belongs in the music libraries of every Sufjan Stevens and Laura Veirs fan. (Kill Rock Stars)