Have You Heard… I Break Horses?

Songs of 2014 – “Weigh True Words” & “You Burn”

by Amanda Smith & Gabriel Valdez

Neo-80s music that builds and builds with a dark-edged, slow-burn intensity. Optimistic choruses that feel inches away from flying over landscapes in The NeverEnding Story. I Break Horses controls your emotions with a mastery of synthesized soundscapes and lyrics that yearn to be part of a different world.

Simply put, Sweden is making the best pop in the world, and I Break Horses is a Swedish duo that’s jetted out the starting gate. Chiaroscuro is Maria Linden and Fredrik Balck’s second album, full of songs that experiment endlessly inside of strict indie pop housing. They hearken to an era of 80s optimism, 90s intensity, and modern slowcore (aka shoegazer) that’s never actually existed.

There’s more than a little Bat for Lashes in both their musical and emotive progressions, but there’s no idealism being strove toward in the style of Natasha Khan. I Break Horses is too melancholic. This re-frames their sound – here we have something more inwardly focused, a little more unsettled and discontented. That’s what creates the yearning that comes out of I Break Horses.

Both bands can make us feel like flying across magical 80s landscapes. With Bat for Lashes, we achieve that otherworldly landscape. With I Break Horses, there’s too much distance from here to there. We have one foot left on the ground. What we’re left with is something both magical and airy, yet bittersweet and even a little angry.

Hesitation is hidden all throughout their music, making that initial build-up to the optimistic chorus feel as much a struggle as an achievement. This is meditative neo-80s music to drive around with late at night, in the cold when the traffic lights blur together into impressionistic paintings, and you feel like being steely and contemplative like a protagonist caught between scenes.

Have You Heard… is a stream of song and band recommendations, many of which may be new to you. It’s also the kind of analysis that’s missing in a music industry obsessed with image and celebrity instead of the music itself.

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