Horsecollar – You’ve Got a Big Heart, Sweet Tiger

If you remember, I introduced you to Horsecollar on a podcast back in April.  There was a brief, abortive attempt to raise money for a single using Kickstarter, but when that didn’t come off Brent just got right on with recording the album, and now it is finished.

For music which generally sounds pretty sparse, as if it could mostly have been recorded live in one take, this is actually rather a multi-textured and variable record. For the most part, however, it’s carried by the piano and a vocal which is delivered in a manner which suggests the singer hasn’t quite made up his mind whether or not he can really be arsed singing at all.

This impression of someone imprisoned by an ordinary life is reinforced by songs like Courtland Street, which seems rather like an unimpressed self-evaluation in song form.  The Thrill of Never Being Satisfied is another song which seems preoccupied with scoring the most meagre of victories.

On their Bandcamp page, where you can buy this album for as much or as little as you want, they describe themselves as ‘grumpy’ and as ‘apology rock’ and there is certainly a self of awkward apology about the album as a whole, almost as if it isn’t entirely convinced it should be forcing itself upon your ears.

It should though, because this is a really good album.  There are times, chiefly after the mumbling one-two of Jackie Farrow (With the Scarf Tied Round Her Head) and High John, the Conqueror when the pace slows to such an extent that it is in danger of stalling, despite the reluctant burst of horns at the end of the former tune.  The band seem to know this though, because the next song starts with a weird burst of metal percussion, which almost serves as an alarm clock. The song it announces is no quicker than the previous stuff, but the effect works, and the gently reassuring piano gives it a little more purpose without having to get particularly uptempo.

It’s kind of ironic that this torpor is broken by Courtland Street, a song about a sedentary life which never budges from the couch. The bells, wonderfully rhythmic piano and gorgeous strings of Christopher may still be the highlight of the album for me, but to say so comes across as an unintended slight on the rest of the songs, which would be wrong.

The domesticity and small-town, average life character of this record is emphasised by the fact that each mp3, when you download the album, is tagged by a different picture which could easily have been taken from a family photo album.  And perhaps it’s that relatively limited scope led to me underestimating how much I’ve been enjoying this.

I’ve ended up feeling a little like the big city kid in those endless comedies who gets stuck in a small town for some reason, ends up falling in love with the place and staying forever. There’s nothing fashionable about this album, and it doesn’t even seem to have that much confidence in itself, but once you see past that it really is excellent. It’s unlikely to gain much press, but that should serve to chide the music writers of the world, not belittle the band, because this is a very good album indeed.

Horsecollar – Concrete Deathbed
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/Horsecollar-ConcreteDeathbed.mp3]
Horsecollar – Christopher
[audio:http://songbytoad.com/tunes/Horsecollar-Christopher.mp3]
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