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'Cynic's New Year' is Horse Feathers at its Best

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 16:04

Horse Feathers

Cynic's New Year

(Kill Rock Stars)

Grade: B

With his penchant for slowly plucked banjo, his earnest, understated singing, and his uneasy, often grim lyrics, Justin Ringle sometimes impinges on Bonnie "Prince" Billy's weird, old Americana territory. But Ringle's Horse Feathers comes with strings attached: The Portland band – basically Ringle and violinist Nathan Crockett, plus loads of helpmates – is at its best when it contrasts his stark songs with luxurious orchestrations, and that happens often on Cynic's New Year, Horse Feathers' fourth album.

"Fire To Fields/Elegy For Quitters" blends violins, cello, trebly piano and soft drums into a gorgeous suite. "Last Waltz" sounds like a chamber quartet remaking a Bon Iver song. Although Ringle can write a lovely simple acoustic guitar song such as the Iron & Wine-like opener, "A Heart Arcane," Horse Feathers is at its best when at its most string-kissed.


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