Portland-based band Horse Feathers have announced the release of their forthcoming album Appreciation, out May 4 via Kill Rock Stars. Justin Ringle has never been one to hide away the struggles he has faced in creating music. Following the release of Cynic’s New Year in 2012 there followed a long period of disillusionment during which he thought his career was over. Then in 2014, he surprised many with the release of So It Is With Us, an album on which he allowed the joy of making music to shape his songwriting. Four years on and life’s worries (those who are very conscious of advancing years will appreciate them) have naturally played their part in shaping his songwriting.
Despite the dark picture this may paint, the first single “Without Applause” is anything but. Ringle’s new rhythm section shows off their Northern Soul sensibilities to great effect in a swirl of Hammond organ, strings, and horns that leaves the listener filled with joy and warmth.
On Appreciation, their sixth full-length and the fifth on venerable independent label Kill Rock Stars, the signifiers of the band are there: Lead singer Justin Ringle’s warm tenor and lyrics that speak of work, love, and other struggles. But on this album less of the song dynamics are achieved with strings and more with an exciting new rhythm section steeped in Northern Soul. Longtime violinist Nathan Crockett and keyboardist Dustin Dybvig provide continuity, but much of Appreciation feels like the best of Ringle’s previous musical ideas just took a giant step into a larger arena.
Recorded primarily in Kentucky (at La-La Land Studios in Louisville and Shangri-La Studios in Lexington), the new album features instrumentalists J. Tom Hnatow, Robby Cosenza and R&B vocalist Joslyn Hampton, who helped make Appreciation a mixture of strutting ‘70s-style country-pop and supple soul.
“It just felt like a fresh take on how my songs can come across,” Ringle says. “With this incarnation, it’s okay 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.”