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House With No Home

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Born and raised in Lewiston, ID, Justin Ringle has a natural affinity with the West. Its space, beauty, and nonconformity seem to be reflected in the music of his band Horse Feathers, named after an expression he heard his grandfather use. In Ringle's hands, the common meaning of this expression comes to life: two things that can't possibly exist together are spun into a gossamer delicacy of music shot through with lyrical weight.

Justin grew up on Northwest labels like Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars, and K Records, but soon broadened his horizons. Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen, Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, Fleetwood Mac, Willie Nelson and old country and blues like Lefty Frizzell and Son House have all contributed to shaping Horse Feather's arrestingly spare sound.

Moving from Idaho to Portland, OR in 2004, Justin recorded some demos, one of which found its way to Peter Broderick (Norfolk & Western, Dolorean, and Loch Lomond)a talented multi-instrumentalist. Peter was so taken by the songs he contacted Justin and offered to help record them properly. Later Peter's sister Heather Broderick joined the band on cello and backing vocals. Justin and Peter worked together to polish the material that became the group's first album, Words Are Dead which was released on the local Lucky Madison label in 2006. It received an enthusiastic response, including a nomination for the Plug Awards Americana Album of the Year.

After a year of touring the US in various incarnations, Horse Feathers signed to Kill Rock Stars and proceeded to record this, their second album: House With No Home. On it they have distilled their sound into a brilliant statement of minimalist Americana. Peter and Heather's precisely arranged strings step cautiously in and around Justin's haunting vocal lines, and the economy of music is also reflected in the lyrics a few evocative phrases tell rich stories, each word weighted and delivered with careful purpose. It is an album infused with rare power and emotion, restrained but always present, where the gaps between the notes can be as important as the notes themselves.

Review

It s funny how music you've never heard before can elicit overwhelming nostalgia. From the moment you hear Portland-based Horse Feathers singer Justin Ringle's croon on their latest album s opener ''Curs in the Weeds,'' it's hard to forget times of serene happiness in your life. It's hard to forget times of youthful bliss, and it's downright disturbingly difficult to forget the impact of young love -- or maybe it's just me.

Whether or not the lyrical content of House With No Home matches any of these memories is irrelevant -- Ringle's mumble conjures up surreal scenarios of Tracy Chapman doing Sam Amidon, minus any vocal enunciation; rather, it s the otherworldly music that causes one to get lost in cerebral trauma while driving home alone at night. To be direct, the sound of this album is nothing short of beautiful. Peter and Heather Broderick's string arrangements mimic Aaron Copland s most tender moments, and over Ringle's guitar strumming, the impact is enough to cause the White Witch's icy heart to melt.
Listen to ''Rude to Rile'' and you ll find a masterpiece of violin, cello, and percussion. I've listened to this track over and over again, and I felt as though my life story was being told: ''He just waits/ And he hopes and he prays/ But the more she is loved she hurts.'' It makes me wish I had written it, because it feels like I mean it. Yet strangely, it still feels like it could be an old Appalachian folk song; I don t know how, but it does. And it s not as though love lost is my life story, but for a few minutes I'm convinced that it is.
The only real problem I have with this album is that it can begin to drag after a while. I feel like I need to be in the mood for it all the time, as the somber intensity of it can be a lot to handle track after track. There isn't much of a change between the songs, but as a complete piece of art, it works seamlessly. It's not 'mushy' or 'whiny' music by any means; it just delicately walks the tightrope between sad and hopeful. On ''Albina,'' Ringle demonstrates how a voice can be blended with music and find its own as an instrument, a technique that reaches its pleading peak on ''Heather's Kiss.'' There are moments that can leave you bored, but there are moments where you can forget what you re doing entirely. The songs beg to be heard, and the most you can do it listen.
If you like gorgeous folk, then this album is for you. If you don't, well, The Hold Steady released something not that long ago. --Tiny Mix Tapes

...At their best, Horse Feathers are essential listening to anyone interested in folk music, acoustic music, whatever broad general category you want to put them under. ''Heathens Kiss'' is still under five minutes, but works in a scope and scale they haven t really essayed before and the effect is stunning, especially when the song bows down and slows its pirouetting strings for Ringle to gently intone, ''Heathens kiss, softly''. ''Helen'' sounds almost like a swooning love song until you pay closer attention to the lyrics (''Helen if you come, I think you know I'll go / Much the same way the sun steals the snow''). The way that chorus unfolds out of the record s most insular arrangement, with half the vocals whispered in the background, is a sublime moment of a kind you're going to get from no other band... --Popmatters

It's only September, but all the leaves are already brown for Horse Feathers. Winter is manifest in the trio's second album, House With No Home, a collection rife lyrically with snowflakes and slate-gray skies looming over equally chilling folk arrangements augmented with chamber-style strings. Singer Justin Ringle often muffles his words or loses them altogether (as though a wool scarf were covering his mouth) as he trudges through cadences reminiscent of Ryan Adams or Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, delicately dotting his stanzas with multi-dimensional characters weathering the winters of their existence.

Which is more enriching than it sounds. Although the setting has shifted to the rural Pacific Northwest, the storytelling here is akin to author Russell Banks's bleak yet poignant portraits of lower-class life in frozen New Hampshire. Banjo-driven ''Working Poor'' is most explicit in this task: ''We all bend/We all break/We all forfeit what we make.'' House resonates most when it focuses on more universal themes of alienation -- losing a child, failure that runs in the family, adultery, obscenity, and, of course, seasonal depression -- and lays them bare for dissemination. Without the lyric sheet handy, finding some sunshine in Peter and Heather Broderick's expert arrangements is possible, if barely: As Ringle's backing corps, they break from their cool elegance only once, for a few tumultuous notes sliding out of tune amid cymbal crashes in ''Albina,'' perhaps an unhappy ode to gentrification. As quickly as this strident moment appears, though, it's gone. Meanwhile, Ringle's closest approximation of a lyrical wink shows up in ''Helen,'' wherein he turns the prospect of feeling better into an artistic dilemma: ''What will I write when I'm fine?'' In the meantime, he certainly won't run out of material. --Village Voice
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 9, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Kill Rock Stars
  • ASIN: B001CVCBDK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,917 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
How this album escaped every year-end list I came across seems absolutely befuddling, bemusing, bewildering, and--with all due respect--just plain dumb (what? I said with all due respect). I was at their show in November ('08) and again in May ('09) and they produce America's most beautiful music. There's no doubt. Their music is just as hauntingly beautiful as Bon Iver, except it's got a cello and a violin... instruments that make almost any song better! :) "Curs in the Weeds" might be my favorite song from 2008. Just. Freaking. Beautiful. I also really enjoy "Working Poor," one of the faster-paced songs from the album.

Edit (6.07.10): Horse Feathers continue to get momentum on the national scene, at least from NPR after their most recent release, Thistled Spring, debuted in April. Please go check it out.
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An album I find myself returning to many times after seeing them perform in their home area of Portland, Oregon recently. Violins and other strings along with guitar and banjo are the lead instruments which gives the backing almost a kind of new age sound with a little hint of bluegrass. On top of this, some gentle hesitant vocals and harmonies and some melodies which slowly take hold, make this an oddly compelling album.
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"House with No Home," is a good example of a band successfully forging a fresh sound out of genre conventions. All the ingredients of folk are here: gentle harmonies, "unplugged" instrumentation and deceptively simple song structures. But somehow through it all, Horse Feathers manages to sound like it's own band.

Described by a number of critics as minimalistic (a label that is not completely unfounded), Horse Feathers is at it's best with as few instruments as possible cluttering up the arrangements. The opener, "Curs in the Weeds," and "Albina," (one of the albums strongest tracks) exemplify the age old adage of "less is more," both swelling in and out of emotional climaxes through a combination of acoustic guitars, minimal string sections and affected vocals and lyrics that convey a sense of quiet solemnity. But even when the band is sticking closest to it's roots - as in tracks like "Working Poor," and "Heathen's Kiss," - the songs still seem to transcend generalities and coalesce into something surprisingly honest and heartfelt (though perhaps not necessarily great).

So while every song may not quite stand toe-to-toe with the most impressive tracks on the album, as a whole it works very well as a nice, quiet way to spend a half hour. Horse Feathers has proven (again) that folk can sound new and fresh but still appeal to fans of the genre. Definitely recommended.
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This is a nice mellow CD. Good for background music or moody listening on a rainy day. Perfect Portland music. Highly recommend to people who like well composed mellow music. The first song is the best on the CD.
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As a lover of Eastmountainsouth's music, I was sad to see that they stopped making albums. However, I am overjoyed to have discovered Horse Feathers which, to me, is like a revival of Eastmountainsouth. If you love Eastmountainsouth, I doubt that you'll not admire Horse Feathers. With the indie folk genre getting more mainstream attention than years past, Horse Feathers offer a solace for those who wish to listen to "grassroots" indie folk. Song picks include: "Curs in the Weeds" and "Different Gray" which are very heartrending and "This is What" which has quite stunning instrumentation.
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I'm surprised more people haven't written reviews about this excellent CD. I don't have time to write a detailed review, but I think justice will be better served if another individual (me) gives this CD and group another 5 star rating.
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