feeble little horse Defy the Sophomore Slump on Girl With Fish

The Pittsburgh-based quartet deliver a fearless album that blends delicate acoustics and seismic shoegaze

Music Reviews Feeble Little Horse
feeble little horse Defy the Sophomore Slump on Girl With Fish

feeble little horse didn’t mean to make another album. Heyday was supposed to be their first and last, an homage to their friendship and a way to commemorate their college days. They were content with it, happy to have something to memorialize the giddy confusion and flimsy innocence that comes before entering the real world. The quartet didn’t necessarily want to stop making music together, but everyone knows that, sometimes, life and logistics get in the way. They figured the cassette tapes would serve as a testament to their friendship—a nostalgic artifact for them to show their kids to prove that, at one point, they were super cool. But then they got picked up by Saddle Creek last year.

Call it divine intervention or insane luck but, truth be told, they’re just once-in-a-lifetime kind of talented. It doesn’t take a label scout to see that. One listen to their latest release, Girl with Fish, proves their instant magnetism. They’re mesmerizing from the first track, “Freak,” which gives you a crash course on crushing on a college athlete, to the glitchy yet delicate “Slide,” which implies it’s going to take more than a band-aid to fix what happened during a fall.

Shattering the myth of “sophomore slump syndrome,” feeble little horse possess an uncanny bravery. They forge ahead with a fearlessness that is palpable even when the lyrics are sparse. You can feel it in the overdrive and the distortion, and the riffs that are so intense they register in your chest. Vocalist Lydia Slocum makes it most evident on tracks like “Healing,” in which she professes: “Paint still washes off / Even after it’s dried / It doesn’t matter / To the sink.” With her gossamer vocals floating over doting guitars, it’s a thinly veiled shot at reassurance—a promise that if you’re patient all the pain will go away.

It’s these moments of tenderness that make Girl with Fish so endearing. There’s a sense that the band has seen what they’ve needed to, that they’ve been where you are and found a way through. feeble little horse don’t shy away from the harsh truths, like on “Tin Man,” when Slocum admits “I found you / All rusted and leaky / Took him apart / And I found nobody.” They highlight the letdowns and the L’s we all reluctantly take—staring down the moments that really suck and daring to transform them into proof of redemption. You can hear it in the schism on “Pocket,” as the song shifts from sugary to a dizzying swirl of exhausted shouting and crushing percussion.

They play this tug-of-war across all 11 tracks, vacillating between thundering bass lines underscoring annoyances (like on “Steamroller”) and genuine moments of tongue-tied emotion that’s best expressed through the shoegaze-soaked second-guessing on “Station.” They capture the in-betweens, the moments that make you hold your breath, the nail-biting and nerve-wracking interactions that make you think twice. feeble little horse are not immune to the setbacks and fuck-ups and everything that makes life fun but alsoscary. They synthesize it with their ethereal arrangements and sudden caveats into noise territory. Slocum said this is the most vulnerable she’s ever been while writing, and it’s immediately apparent. Her delivery is the most mesmerizing part, the way she can gauge whether it’s time to twist the knife or take an airy approach.

There’s a vicarious catharsis laced throughout the LP that is so clear on a track like “Heavy Water,” as Slocum sings about blue-collared babies and biblical names. It’s a shift that feels seismic, as if something sacred came to light and you were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it. The band takes what makes you stutter and shake and transform it into a few lines that aren’t too surface-level severe but are capable of unleashing a knock-out punch. feeble little horse may have intended on calling it quits after their debut, but we can all be relieved they didn’t. They had more to say, and, on Girl With Fish, thank God they found the courage to confess it.

Samantha Sullivan is a former Paste Music intern and writer based in Philadelphia. She can be reached on Instagram @fangirlpurgatory.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin