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Horse Feathers' Music Gets A Folk-Rock Makeover

Justin Ringle of Horse Feathers.
John W. Clark
Courtesy of the artist
Justin Ringle of Horse Feathers.

Horse Feathers' music has always revolved around specific, distinctive ingredients, from Justin Ringle's sandy-voiced warmth to lush string arrangements to fatalistic lyrics that undercut the surrounding swirl of sonic comfort food. The group has served as a living embodiment of beardy Pacific Northwest folk-pop, a style it's consistently elevated through the uncommon beauty of its songs.

On May 4, Horse Feathers will return with Appreciation, and its music has taken a turn: The fundamental building blocks remain after six albums, but the songs have a strummier, kickier quality to them. Horse Feathers' most recent material has sped up a bit, and Appreciation feels like the logical conclusion of that drift.

Take "Without Applause," the new album's first single: It replaces Horse Feathers' ornate deliberation with surging folk-rock that's suffused with soul and just a hint of country. It's a fleshing-out more than a reinvention — an approach Ringle, writing via email, describes as "a fresh take on how my songs can come across. With this incarnation [of Horse Feathers], it's OK if what I'm doing right now is, in fact, kind of a pop song. I can have a chorus and repeat something. I'm more aware of that and enjoy it."

Appreciation comes out May 4 via Kill Rock Stars.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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