by I Break Horses is an attempt to prove they have one, albeit a hazed-out, electron-fed blood trickling-rather-than-pumping version. The Scandinavian two-piece of Maria Lindn and Fredrik Balck (taking their band's name from an awesome Smog song) are arbitrators of ambiguity. Vocals are both lush and indiscernible and flow easily into the compositions which are watered-down homages to greats like My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, etc, etc. (I could go on indefinitely). Their modus operandi is weaving together lush and noisy soundscapes with the familiar blips and bleeps of today. The effort often falls short - there is a point where synths and keyboards cannot glitter or surprise. The moments where a crushing guitar solo is expected, computers merely play out mechanized harmonies.
The album kicks off viscerally with two of the best tracks: "Winter Beats" and the title track, "Hearts". The former washes the listener in a strange hybrid of chillwave evolving into chiptune fantasies. Our first glimpse of vocals suggest a preening Hope Sandoval in calming, hushed colors. On "Winter Beats" I met my first instance of hesitation—a point where I want the dissonance to become bigger and louder, the beat just speeds up and continues to hark shrilly. On "Hearts", the track fades in with the exact riff of the song before—an allusion to view the two as one, possibly. The initial buzzing recalls a hopeless moth flitting around a lightbulb and the carefully sentimental guitar groans don't fit with the hyper-coked out backing riff. When dwelling on a drone fuzz, I ache for a dismissal of remnants of "Winter Beats" because the effusiveness of "Hearts" is beautiful on its own, without the constant reference to what came before.
"Wired" wanders with a seductive post-punk(y) intro and taut drumming. It picks up with an attempt at a brash crescendo balanced by sleepy girlish vocals. This track especially highlights I Break Horses' great moments, where the song rattles and creates stellar scruffy confusion, almost as if two songs were playing atop one another. "I Kill Your Love, Baby" was a favorite as it took its time and utilized a eerily placed oscillation between just two notes. The sound was able to rush in, due to spare vocals and an overall equality between both the dark melancholy ambiance and the lighter chirpy reminders. The rest of the album blurs on with some forgettable songs that adapt themes of punching key stabs, reflective guitar sentiments, and a whole lot of dreaminess. The real problem I have here is a lack of purpose or variability in the songs, although I cannot decide if that absence is intriguing or off-putting. Barriers are not broken here, but the occasional peeks at powerful dissonance foreshadow a bright future. Yet I feel that they'd prefer to be dark.
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MP3: "Winter Beats"