An Horse - Walls
Record Label: Mom + Pop
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Aussie pop-rock duo An Horse’s latest effort, Walls, explores the ever-fertile thematic grounds of the long-distance relationship with bubbly pep, sincerity, big guitar hooks and some killer drumming. It’s a perfect summertime respite from the overly-shinny sounds emanating from passing cars’ radios.
An Horse frontwoman Kate Cooper appears to have taken some cues from tour buddies Tegan & Sara when it comes crafting self-pitying songs that maintain feminine strength. Walls is almost overwhelming in its earnestness. The sentiment is carried not only by Cooper’s voice, but the choice details she emotes. The specifics she uses help ground the songs in a diary-writing reality. The album’s opener, “Dressed Sharply,” is essentially a song about written letters, only it focuses heavily on style of dress. The chorus’ key lyric is “A yellow shirt and a blue jacket,” and the song ends with the refrain “Dressed so sharply, you know I will read, every word that you send me.” Now, that’s not a logistical flow, but as a songwriter, making that choice and delivering it so honestly indicates its importance. Because An Horse commits to a line like this, it doesn’t seem silly or frivolous. The situation holds true on “Not Mine” with the line “You said alright, that’s enough Twin Peaks for one night.” It doesn’t seem like a heady way to tie together a rhyme, but it feels like a page torn from Cooper’s experience.
However, not all of Cooper’s writing works. “No This, We’ve Noticed” attempts to work as a slow, emotional build about a friend’s issues, but is undermined by its repetition. The main line – “Know this, we’ve noticed that you’re not fine” – is clever on its first pass, but when the phrase is repeated 13 times, it becomes unbearably grating.
An Horse does a terrific job mixing song feels on Walls. Cooper has spunk in spades, and her bite and quick tongue helps carry upbeat numbers like “Tracks and Tears” and “Airport Death.” Her guitar tone also aides in this respect; it’s somewhat reminiscent of a cleaner Alkaline Trio ripping guitar sound. As the album progresses, the songs tend to fall into a lovely and comforting hushed sweetness (“Windows In the City”) that does its best to force the corners of your mouth into a soft smile.
Another endearing aspect about Walls is Cooper’s occasional lapses into her Australian accent. On “Walls” and “Brain on a Table,” the accent comes in heavily on certain words with “or” and “aw” sounds. All becomes “aw-ll,” for becomes “fo-our” and asking becomes “aww-sking.” These vowel elongations even further warm the listener to Cooper’s coos; they’re adorably cute.
Just when things seem to have cooled down for good, “Leave Me” comes with furious, driving speed. The song underscores how important Damon Cox’s drumming is to An Horse’s sound. Cox really grasps the drummer’s role in the two-piece dynamic. Not only is his playing air-tight rhythmically, but it also works dynamically to add more melody and fullness to the band’s sound. Cox’s performance on Walls is enough to put him into the conversation of underrated rock drummers.
Walls is a collection of songs that improves with each listen. The hooks burrow deeper into your brain. But these aren’t annoying ditties invading head space; they’re unexpected visitors you’re delighted to have return time and time again.