The equipment list for Horse Feathers' second full-length, House With No Home, suggests an album of ornate chamber-folk: cello, violin, viola, zither, banjo, saw, mandolin, etc. The actual playing cuts toward the "American primitive" vision of Gillian Welch, especially on "Heathen's Kiss." The bowed, stringed instruments loosen up, drifting and swelling away from the sharp, staccato playing of the band's 2006 debut, Words Are Dead. It's as if Horse Feathers now wants its instruments to emulate the uneven creaks in Justin Ringle's voice, which can keep a melody surging even when it fades to a whisper. "We are young, we are weak / just as blank as we are bleak," he sings on "Working Poor," meeting exhaustion with the swagger of a beer-hall sing-along. Always keeping an ear open to contrast, Horse Feathers grasps the tension between spare arrangement and raw delivery on "Helen," "This Is What," and "Father," the strongest in a set of tunes that play as both stately and melancholy. It leaves a lot implied, but slowly clears the way for a chilling catharsis.
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