I Break Horses
I Kill Love/Cooperative Music/Downtown
Aug 15, 2011 #37 – St. Vincent
Swedish duo I Break Horses (Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck) take their cues from shoegaze greats, at times sounding like the younger siblings of Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, and Ride. But far from a promising, yet diminutive relative—simply aping their older family members' accomplishments—the band owns their influences on every track of their impressive debut album.
The Stockholm duo's expansive soundscapes seemingly pulse with life; every corner filled with the glorious noise of crashing guitars and layered synths, topped with Lindén's dreamy soprano that sometimes approaches near Cocteau Twins-level abstraction. Although a member of the shoegaze club, I Break Horses aim for—and inevitably succeed—at creating the kind of all-encompassing crescendos that Sigur Rós chase with every release. Given that, it would be easy to lean on the kind of language usually used to describe fairies (beautiful, surreal, otherworldly, et al.)—if it weren't for tracks such as "Winter Beats," whose keys, strings, and percussion is plunked, strummed, and whacked hard enough to chase the adjective "ethereal" right out of the room.
Also throwing an additional layer of grit across the album is the running obsession with human fragility—a very real concern for the two self-admitted hypochondriacs. Both "Cancer" and "Pulse" play with ideas of life and death. It's a theme that peeks its head through the layers on other tracks as well. Like a sonic inside joke, both "I Kill Your Love, Baby!" and "Load Your Eyes" feature a steady, near pulse-like beat.
Title track "Hearts" takes the formula to its apex, painting with the same brush as The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey"—its slow building synths and haze of guitar are tailor-made to indicate cinematic levels of introspection. (Sofia Coppola, take note.) However, separating out a single track is an exercise in futility. Hearts is an album-lover's album—nine meticulously constructed, knockout tracks, lacking both filler and repetition. Easily one of the best debuts—and possibly one of the best albums—of the year. (www.ibreakhorses.se)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10