Pop Goes the Horse

Horse Feathers
Horse Feathers

Though Wikipedia deems Portland-based acoustic five-piece Horse Feathers “indie folk,” frontman Justin Ringle is less sure. “I don’t even look at it as folk or neo-folk, necessarily,” Ringle tells EW.

Those who remember tracks like the band’s popular, banjo-melodied 2008 single “Working Poor” might be surprised by this conclusion. But alas, it’s true. Horse Feathers has met the same fate as countless other acoustic acts: a movement from emotive, lyric-driven tenderness towards electric sounds, an active rhythm section and empowered, sing-along-ready melodies.

In fact, when describing the group’s newest album So It Is With Us, Ringle says, “I’d almost rather say this is pop that has folk instrumentation.”

But before you lament the dying art of true songwriting and the modern young music listener’s insatiable hunger for instant ear-candy gratification, consider the possibility that Horse Feathers isn’t actually selling out but growing.

“We’ve been doing very, like, folk-style songs for almost 10 years,” Ringle says. He’s right: Horse Feathers has been a primary force in the Pacific Northwestern acoustic indie scene since 2004, and perhaps it really is time for something different.

As a whole, So It Is With Us manages to retain a lightness and authenticity (aided, of course, by Ringle’s deliciously full vocals) while adding a standard rhythm section and a few electric and synthesized sounds. One major advantage to this is a more active audience experience. “We get to be in it together with them,” Ringle says, “and kind of get a little more energy back.”

Now, the strummers and crooners have returned to the Northwest to finish their national tour in support of the album. The upcoming Eugene show — the very last stop on their tour — is sure to be an impassioned send-off, and this time around, you can count on dancing.

Sara Jackson-Holman joins Horse Feathers 9 pm Saturday, Dec. 13, at WOW Hall; $12 adv., $14 door. All ages.

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