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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