Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Feeble Little Horse Girl With Fish

Saddle Creek
Saddle Creek

The new wave of American shoegaze is upon us. As Stereogum contributor Eli Enis astutely laid out for us late last year, there are an abundance of bands out there right now making distortion-heavy music. They’re indebted to the ’90s totems of the genre (MBV, Slowdive, Ride, Lush) but they’re also part of a generation of musicians that elevated the homespun warbles of Alex G to god-like status and rode so hard for Duster that the nearly forgotten slowcore band seemingly had no choice but to reunite. Bands with this specific confluence of influences are popping up all over the country (and the world), but a lot of the heat seems to be concentrated in Philadelphia, where a decade ago artists like the Spirit Of The Beehive (another of this wave’s guiding stylistic lights) were in the process of turning scurrying slacker jams into an appealing and emulatable artform.

Feeble Little Horse has its roots in Pittsburgh, slightly removed from the nexus of this scene. I’d hesitate to really call FLH shoegaze, but they were motivated into existence by an admiration for bands like They Are Gutting A Body Of Water, A Country Western, and Full Body 2, Philly bands whose music is heavier and more in tune with the classics. The similarities between them are less in sound than in execution: songs with indiscrete structures that mangle decades worth of rock in the same genre-omnivorous way that hyperpop did. (Hyper-rock? I’ll show myself out.) These bands tend to create murky swirls of sound that occasionally coalesce into something concrete. Feeble Little Horse scan as this scene’s rascally upstarts, with music that is less dense and more playful than their counterparts.

They got their start a little over two years ago. Sebastian Kinsler and Ryan Walchonski, the band’s guitarists and main sonic architects, started making music together after clicking with each other as part of a different band. Drummer Jake Kelley, Walchonski’s roommate at the time, soon joined their ranks, and they recorded Feeble Little Horse’s debut Modern Tourism EP on their own. Before that was even released, vocalist and bassist Lydia Slocum came into the fold. Slocum is the band’s not-so-secret weapon, a presence that elevates Feeble Little Horse to the next level.

Their debut full-length Hayday came together quickly, a lot of it written and recorded over a single weekend. “Chores,” one of the album’s fuzzily satisfying highlights, boasts a surging, commanding hook: “You need to do your chores!” It’s surrounded by goofball whirrs and zings and babbling samples that extend through the rest of the album — the result of a young band throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. There’s a lot to like about Hayday, but the new Girl With Fish is even better, confident enough to do away with the occasionally grating moments of Hayday: less novelty, more great songs. They pack their layered tracks with hooks, which arrive in the form of needling guitars and humming feedback that’s impossible to get out of your head.

There’s also plenty of fuel from Slocum’s delivery, equal parts sardonic and vulnerable, and easy to snag onto when the rest of the band gets loud. Take “Freak,” the album’s perfect opener. Blown-out guitars give way to a forceful come-on that carries throughout the song. Slocum addresses some guy she has a crush on from her basketball team (“I know you want me, freak”) and bemoans his current choice of partner, who is far too short for him: “I can look you in the eye/ I’ll cheer for you/ ‘Cause I’m on your side/ How can you be satisfied?/ She’s 5’1″ and you’re 6’5″.” It’s funny and effective, one of many examples on Girl With Fish where Slocum shines clear through the band’s jumble, shifting what could be just an intriguing assemblage of textures into an actual song, one that feels eminently repeatable and has real personality.

Slocum tends to tangle up sweaty desire with surreal, slightly grotesque humor. “Steamroller, you fuck like you’re eating,” she sings on one. “Your smile’s like lines in the concrete.” On the stellar “Sweet,” she trades lines back and forth with Kinsler: “I’m only down the street/ Can’t keep him out of me/ Inviting me to leave/ See it in everything/ I’m stretching out again/ Feed off/ I’m putting this to bed/ My sickness.” Her lyrics can be as abstract as the music its accompanying, but typically she’s the one with the most direct line of communication to the listener. She proves the perfect complement to the songs that Feeble Little Horse make, embedded in a way that her voice’s sickly sweetness sticks out, serving as an anchor to tie together the group’s free-wheeling compositions.

“Pocket” feels like an accurate representation of the band’s sound in miniature. It starts off prickly and earnest, but Slocum’s syrupy refrain (“Do you wanna be in my pocket?”) soon turns twisted, bleeding into a sing-spoken breakdown that’s as absurd as it is desperate. The track’s noisy conclusion comes out of nowhere, a jolt that turns all that sweetness acerbic. It’s a compressed showcase for all that Feeble Little Horse can do. Their music threads the needle between carefully composed and gleefully chaotic; through the unexpected sonic whips of their mangled rock songs, there’s an emotional through-line that’s impossible to ignore.

Girl With Fish is out 6/9 via Saddle Creek.

Other albums of note out this week:
• Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit’s Weathervanes
• Janelle Monáe’s The Age Of Pleasure
• Godflesh’s PURGE
• Jenny Lewis’ Joy’All
• King Krule’s Space Heavy
• Youth Lagoon’s Heaven Is A Junkyard
• Squid’s O Monolith
• BabyTron’s 6
• Christine And The Queens’s Paranoïa, Angels, True Love
• Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire’s I’m Alive
• Decisive Pink’s Ticket To Fame
• Jess Williamson’s Time Ain’t Accidental
• Dudu Tassa & Jonny Greenwood’s Jarak Qaribak
• Geld’s Currency // Castration
• The Boo Radleys’ Eight
• Nicholas Allbrook’s Manganese
• Andy Stack & Jay Hammond’s Inter Personal
• Rob Grant’s Lost At Sea
• This Is The Kit’s Careful Of Your Keepers
• Lightning Dust’s Nostalgia Killer
• Dream Wife’s Social Lubrication
• Dominic Sen’s Apparition
• The Dead Milkmen’s Quaker City Quiet Pills
• Love And Rockets’ My Dark Twin
• Emile Mosseri’s Heaven Hunters
• Kiltro’s Underbelly
• Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors’ Strangers No More
• Keaton Henson’s House Party
• Niall Horan’s The Show
• The View’s Exorcism Of Youth
• Jayda G’s Guy
• Jimmy Whispers’ The Search For God
• TEKE::TEKE’s Hagata
• Milky Chance’s Living In A Haze
• Extreme’s SIX
• East Of The Wall’s A Neutral Second
• James’ Be Opened By The Wonderful
• Superbloom’s Life’s A Blur
• Jeff Clarke’s Locust
• Bendik Giske’s Bendik Giske
• decker.’s Ouroboros
• Natalie Rose LeBrecht’s Holy Prana Open Game
• Laura Cantrell’s Just Like A Rose
• Innerlove.’s Roscoe
• Jeremie Albino’s Tears You Hide
• George FitzGerald’s Not As I
• Tightwire’s Head Full Of Snakes
• Queen Of Swords’ Year 8
• Self-Immolation Music’s Infinity Trip
• Christopher Bear & Daniel Rossen’s Past Lives soundtrack
• Darkside’s Live At Spiral House
• My Morning Jacket’s MMJ Live Vol. 3: Bonnaroo 2004 (Return To Thunderdome)
• Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III (Deluxe Edition)
• Dave & Central Cee’s Split Decision EP
• Olof Dreijer + Mt Sims’s Souvenir EP
• Luke Sital-Singh’s Strange Weather EP
• Maps’ Counter Mixes EP
• Michael David’s Talking Book World EP

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