Holy moly. If you thought the last Half-Handed Cloud album was rapid-fire, Halos & Lassos is going to be an even bigger surprise. Nineteen songs zip by in under thirty minutes and rapid-fire tracks mix touches of church sermons with interesting observances on everyday life and a slightly off-kilter sense of humor for another batch of bizarre pop.
Ringleader John Ringhofer (who plays in Sufjan Stevens' live band) tackles religious subjects in a more straightforward way than Stevens, freely pulling lines from bible verses, but like the former is unafraid to call to mind his own questions and internal wrangling with faith. On slight change on Halos & Lassos is that Ringhofer has set a majority of the album to drum machine beats (created from an old school Omnichord electronic synth) instead of actual live drumming, and the result seems to make the short tracks feel even more giddy.
As with previous albums, song titles seem about as long as the tracks themselves, and it's no different here. "Earth Outside of Gost Will Only Be Quicksand" opens the disc with pretty plucked guitars, some nice marimba, a straightforward, but chugging beat and multi-tracked vocals from Ringhofer that go from doot-doot pop to soaring. It's one of the best tracks on the album and at almost two and a half minutes is the second-longest on the album. With a good portion of songs on the album clocking in at about one minute, there are places where different tracks just feel like different segments in the same song. "Foot On The Brake" chugs along more slowly with quiet synths and a nice bass part while the following "A Suit of Clouds to Ride the Skies" kicks things up a notch in the BPM department and sprinkles some twinkling keyboards alongside his bubbly vocals.
Fortunately, Ringhofer actually tones things down a smidgen in a couple places, and even though it doesn't break things up a great deal, it helps the album from blurring together into a single blob of frenetic pop. That said, I'm hard pressed to recommend Halos & Lassos over Thy Is A Word And Feet Need Lamps or any of his other output, simply because the formula has largely stayed the same. The juxtaposition of the largely-programmed (and often seemingly preset) casio-beats and the great variety of played instrumentation (including banjo's, clarinets, melodica, lap steel, trombone, bells, and other) gives Halos & Lassos a slight edge by pushing it even further into bizarre pop territory. With such brief running lengths, though, who know's? Perhaps you'll find you need an hour of this stuff.