Plumbiferous Media

Rearrange Beds – An Horse

Mar 19th 2009
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Rearrange Beds - An HorseAn Horse
Rearrange Beds
Score: 53

An Horse is an Australian indie twosome made up of Kate Cooper and Damon Cox, who met at the record store at which both worked. In Rearrange Beds, An Horse has the quintessential indie debut – catchy lyrics, memorable tracks – and a few inescapable flaws. So far, An Horse has toured with Death Cab for Cutie and Tegan & Sara, both excellent choices as An Horse, musically, shares a great deal with both groups. Rearrange Beds has been available since December on iTunes, but as it’s just been physically released, we’re taking the opportunity to review it now.

Rearrange Beds is made up entirely of vocals, guitar, drums, some backup vocals, and the occasional synthesized sound, and a fairly clear line remains present between the vocals and the instrumentals. And while no individual track has instrumentals that are by any means bad, taken as a whole, the album begins to fall apart. Strumming a chord eight or sixteen times, changing chords, rinsing, and repeating is a well-worn (for good reason) backing, but when the vocals need a particularly strong push, which they often do, the guitar isn’t there to hold the track. And besides, patterns like these get boring even before a single track is over, let alone most of the album. The drumming, however, is another matter. While it may be heavy handed, it is mixed well enough to never overwhelm any other part of the album, and it goes a long way towards making a more interesting album. The drumming is quite possibly the best part of the album.

Kate Cooper’s harsh but energetic and emotionally tinged vocals, accompanied by her omnipresent (though not overly strong) accent, go a great distance towards forming the structure of Rearrange Beds. Unfortunately, they fall somewhat short from carrying the album on their own, and it’s left up to the instrumentals to keep the album both moving and interesting. Happily, the instrumentals are generally up to the task. Though Cooper’s voice works well for delivering the nuanced, narrative lyrics, it’s important to also note that she often dips in and out of tune, especially anytime backing vocals are present as well. However, she has apparently almost mastered the three or so notes she tends to sing.

An Horse writes lyrics well even though they don’t diverge much from the indie formula of anecdotes and metaphoric imagery, and Rearrange Beds is filled with well-written hooks and colorful stories. However, the lyrical flow of Rearrange Beds is often interrupted by a great deal of repetition which, while it does help the album somewhat in terms of musical flow, is unnecessary and eventually somewhat irritating – great hooks cease to be great the fifth or even third time in a row. It would certainly, however, be inaccurate to say that Rearrange Beds‘ lyrics are ruined by repetition. They would certainly be better served with less of it, but it’s not a show-stopping issue.

The largest hole, then, in Rearrange Beds is in a severe miscalculation: one sound does not an album make. In fact, there are at least five tracks on the ten track album that, if omitted, would not change the album in the slightest, other than by decreasing the length. And the problems do not stop there. One of the first tracks that really sounds different is “Little Lungs,” which, for completely different reasons, is the worst track on the album, and this could only have been exacerbated by its being the longest track. If its purpose was to put the other tracks in a better light, it certainly succeeded, not that that did particular good for the album.

But what was the largest surprise on the album was the last track. Often, artists will choose to give the last track a lighter quality than the rest of the album, even changing the style completely, and, having followed the “make an indie album” formula thus far, An Horse did the same. What was surprising, though, was that the last track was very good. The vocals calmed down and remained mostly in tune, the guitar finally did something interesting, and it left us with the question: why couldn’t we hear something like this earlier?

Rearrange Beds isn’t all bad. There are some problems that each element needed to fix, and didn’t, and the album as a whole could stand for much more variety, but there are some good tracks that can be picked out of the sameness, for example: “Postcards,” “Scared as Fuck,” and “Listen.” An Horse got off to a somewhat rocky start with their first full-length album, but they have clearly shown their ability to make a much stronger sequel.

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