Portland indie-folk trio stares into the dark
Horse Feathers constructs music out of fragile whispers and half-remembered dreams, eagerly filling in the gaps between Sufjan Stevens and Iron & Wine on the American indie-folk continuum. Led by Justin Ringle, a soft-voiced poet from the rural expanse of Idaho, the trio refines the approach of its 2006 debut, creating songs with more open space, fewer loose ends, and all the metaphorical tangles left intact. The arrangements feel as chilly and evasive as the ghostly barns hovering over a snowy landscape on the album’s cover. Ringle’s conflicted racists and bitter families are brought to life with plainspoken urgency and earthy anachronisms. Tempos never increase much above a soft gallop, with violins and cellos massaging Ringle’s fingerpicked guitar and tying loose knots around his soft croon. His hushed tones ultimately undersell the potency of the material a bit, but those who dig deep into his musty verse will find a haunted home.