So, now that the Festival is finished with, we’re back to business.
First up in the new reviewing season (it coincides nicely with the start of the academic year in a couple of weeks) are A Dark Horse, whose video for These Butterflies Are Here featured on Dauphin a month or so ago.
Now, I hadn’t done that much research about the act beyond the context of the aforementioned video until now. A Dark Horse are musical duo Hugh Rodgers and James Parker. They were formed in Dublin, in 2010, and function more like an artistic collective than a normal band – they produce their videos, releases and artwork by themselves – a fact which gets their gorgeous sleeve cover even more cool points.
For a debut EP, it’s a long record, containing four songs that combine for twenty minutes of music. They compare themselves to Bon Iver, Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure – though I think more prurient reference points might be found in Bright Eyes, Rogue Wave, Ajimal or even Passion Pit. The first track, Take Me Home, is a dreamy opener, driven mainly by the joyful accordion and interlacing acoustic guitar melodies. It’s a happy song, followed nicely by the mysterious These Butterflies Are Here. A track for a lo-fir summer, it’s a gorgeous song with multiple levels of complexity – the change in pace around the 1:40 mark is inspired.
On third track The Heart Won’t Lie, they build on the lo-fi heartfelt sound explored in the first two songs and inject a healthy dose of catchyness into the lyrics. Piano is more prevalent than anything else, though the backing of strings and odd percussion add some nicely rounded elements. The final track eclipses the third somewhat, by capping the record in a conclusive fashion not often heard on EP’s. The bouzouki melody puts an ethereal finish over a largely instrumental song that repeats the record’s motifs and summarises them in a soporific, thoughtful manner.
When A Dark Horse describe themselves, they say that they “[make] music that is more cinematic than sound or song alone”. I think that calling them a cinematic act is a good description; you could imagine any of these songs cropping up in Wes Anderson film, soundtracking some meaningful visual moment. Regardless of that, I think that this debut is one of the best EP’s I’ve heard all year.
You can download A Dark Horse from their Bandcamp page, here, for as little as you like, since they’ve been so kind as to go down the honesty box route.