Label: Kill Rock Stars Release date: 14/06/10 Link: Myspace Thistled Spring is the 3rd album from austere-folk ensemble Horse Feathers. Whilst the band continue to incorporate the themes of pain and longing evident in their earlier works, Words Are Dead (2006) and House with No Home (2008), it is fair to say that this new offering is more effervescent and optimistic. Stylistically too there is an obvious progression; the arrangements are balanced and sophisticated and the band exhibit a more mature and refined air. Brimming with poignancy and thoughtfulness, Justin Ringle’s vocal lines are framed by captivating instrumentals and pensive silences, full of potency and potential. These intertwining facets are as distinct as they are complimentary and, for a lesser band, this complex balance would be an impossible achievement. Notably, there appears to be a recurring theme running through the album, whereby rebirth and transition is represented, both lyrically and instrumentally, through ascending sense of hopefulness and expectancy. Opening with a fragile assortment of plonking piano notes, reminiscent of rain, the title track, 'Thistled Spring' intrinsically conjures images of early spring. Lyrics like "Bit by the Spring, hurt by the thing, plagued by the memories, that it brings" give the piece an undertone of haunted romanticism; but this melancholy is dispelled with soaring, comforting strings that convey a sense of warmth and anticipation. The album becomes progressively sunnier as it runs its course; 'Belly of June' is indicative of this, creating a shining, blithe soundscape through a chore of sporadic banjo, warbling harmonies, and lively strings, which prominently rise between vocal intermissions. Songs such as 'This Bed' and 'As a Ghost' are evocative of cyclical processes and mortality; combining orchestral swell and affecting vocals to create lingering representations of morose euphoria. The album comes to a conclusion with the uplifting 'Heaven’s No Place' which induces a sense of tranquillity and frailty, which fittingly brings to a close a clearly accomplished and cleverly composed collection of songs. Thistled Spring is decidedly brighter than its predecessors. Ringle’s soulful, sombre and hushed vocals combined with delicate crescendos and urgent instrumentation serve to evoke epic sentiments and render a sense of nostalgia in their listener. Impressive too is the way in which the songs are rhythmic whilst generally lacking percussion; that said, the tunes are generally fast paced, and on the whole, end abruptly; which at times is disappointing. It should also be noted, that whist the melodies are strong, they are remain similar throughout; starting quietly and building to a dramatic climax, a climax that at times, is perhaps marginally overzealous and string heavy, which only serves to drown out Ringle’s soft vocals. Nonetheless, these intelligent and textured representations of rural seclusion skillfully capture something unorthodox and profound, whilst remaining contemporary, which is something to be commended. Photobucket