Words Are Dead is one of those little releases that came out of nowhere and caught my ear in a way that only seems to happen a couple times a year. It's not a mindblowing album in that it does anything outlandishly different than anyone else, but seemingly simple arrangements flourish with thoughtful embellishments while singer Justin Ringle delivers words in a way that call to mind of both Iron And Wine and even Jose Gonzalez.
In practice, Horse Feathers is actually only two fellows, including the aforementioned Ringle (who plays guitar, some percussion, and sings) and multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick, who has no less than eight different contributions, including mandolin, cello, violin, banjo, saw, piano, and harmony vocals. After a more traditional opening track, "Finch On Saturday" really kicks off the release with some dancing violin that plays in unique ways off both the main acoustic guitar melody and two-part vocals.
The slightly more frantic instrumentation of "Dustbowl" (that includes layered banjo, guitar, percussive rumbles, and strings) calls to mind Sixteen Horsepower, but rather than dip into fire and brimstone, the track evolves into something pure and bright before a quiet closing section. Some of the best tracks on the disc feature Broderick on imaginative string elements, and sometimes he gets close to approximating a quartet. The rapid stabs of "Falling Through The Roof" are a particular highlight, as the track is also punctuated with some sparse percussion and cymbal rushes that time up nicely with more emotive vocals from Ringle.
The heavily narcotized "Like Lavender" is another album highlight, with more sparse sections of only guitar and vocals punctuated by one heartbreaking swell of strings and plucked mandolin. There are a couple places on the release that aren't quite as strong, but as a whole Words Are Dead is a lovely little album with some inventive arrangements that definitely deserves some attention. If you like any of the aforementioned artists, or even Nick Drake, it might be worth hunting this one down.