Times are tough here at Common Folk Music and I haven’t felt much like writing, but each and every time I would think about it the one album that kept coming to mind was Horse Feathers’ latest release, Cynic’s New Year. So, for those of you who have heard the album I guess there really isn’t any need to describe my current mindset, but for those who haven’t, read and listen carefully.
Musically, there isn’t much that sets Cynic’s New Year apart from previous Horse Feathers albums, but this doesn’t affect my opinion of the somber collection. In fact, during times like this I actually prefer some things to remain unchanged, because with familiarity comes comfort and I need a lot of it now. And, although most of Horse Feathers’ sound has remained the same the size of Justin Ringle’s band of merry music makers has grown, strengthening and supporting his distinct and quiet voice. The new addition or additions don’t overpower Ringle, instead the layered and lush instrumental arrangements create the perfect ambiance for his excellent songwriting.
Lyrically, Cynic’s New Year doesn’t stand out from their previous albums. Always drawing from nature, Ringle uses his environmental surroundings to develop thoughtful songs that are morose and majestic yet completely relatable. His journey through the rugged Pacific Northwest is distinctly American while maintaining a universal appeal tripping through familiar themes like goodbyes, natural disasters, hardships, and resilience. Cynic’s New Year also includes one of the year’s best songs — “Fit Against the Country”. With lyrics like:
Every night we all go to a house we’ll never own.
Every night we are tired,
we’ve been worked to the bone.
But nearly everyday we earn a lower wage,
does it tell you what we’re made of,
or are we just what we’re paid?
It’s a hard country we made.
it’s a song that resonates with everyone struggling in the current economic situation and the main reason for my need to write this review. It’s a melancholic anthem that encapsulates the feeling of a devastated yet strong generation.
There are other outstanding tracks on Cynic’s New Year, but if I were to write about every one of them this would turn into a dissertation. And, with a title like Cynic’s New Year, you can be sure that this is a bitter and contemptuous commentary on the same shit different year mentality most of us possess. Yet, there is something slightly hopeful contained in the sometimes stark and always warm instrumentals — the kind of guarded hope that comes with the anticipation of a new year.
“Fit Against the Country”