Manchester’s Horsebeach return with their second album. Appropriately titled II, it follows on from the critically acclaimed self-titled debut. II sees the band being lyrically deep once again whilst not shying away from hazy summer pop melodies. If you enjoy the likes of Real Estate and the New Zealand bands that attracted the attention of the Flying Nun label, then this is probably your kinda thing.
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If ever there was an album made with me in mind it was the first Horsebeach album. A perfect cross between Real Estate and the Smiths. Throughout, it reminded me of sitting on a hilltop in 1985 if I was a pale romantic young man and not a Datsun Cherry obsessed 12 year old at the time.
When reviewing it I suggested that Horsebeach would benefit from becoming a full band (like the Smiths…or indeed Real Estate). Having four musicians, especially a crack drummer, could send this music into the stratosphere. Instead leader Ryan Kennedy has retreated back into his own murky world. He comes up for air in the poppy almost Aztec Camera-ish ‘It’s Alright’ which has some nice backing vocals providing a bit of colour but overall the impression is over a very pretty but inconsequential drift. When we initially played this in the office there was a kind of collective ‘we’ve had enough of this kind of sound’ sigh that went around the office. That Wild Nothing/Real Estate/Ariel Pink/Ducktails thing. Sometimes you just want songs, and although Horsebeach always have and always will have a nice sound, tracks like ‘Andy’ and 'Dana' are repetitive and rather dreary.
This record has surprised me in that it has shown that I have a tolerance for plangent dreamy guitars and lo-fi bedroom pop but as I alluded to earlier, the sound isn’t the problem -- this album just lacks a direction and any hooks that grab your ears. When they do liven up as on the chiming 'Disappear' they can still thrill and sparkle but overall Horsebeach just haven’t pushed forward in the way I’d have hoped. Still the record is a very pleasant listen in a soporific kind of way.
7/10 JimmyJams73 Customer review, 28th January 2016
Horsebeach are back! Not that they went anywhere. Much. Anyhow, here's the new (been out four months) full-length, imaginatively titled 'II'. Yes, it's their second LP if you hadn't guessed. Into the record then, with 'Intro'. It's a quiet beginning; an instrumental tune lasting 2 and a half minutes, fading in with street sounds, cars and that. Only the whole thing sounds like it was recorded in my auntie's 50s built prefab in Dorking, in her kitchen with the mic pressed up against the other side of the adjacent lounge wall. Puzzling! I had to check my turntable; Worn stylus? I've only had it five minutes; Ah! The next track kicks in and “normal” sonic dynamics are restored. Be still my beating heart.
'It's Alright' is, well, it's a bit better than that. There's a bit of Marr-like guitar, but for me that's where comparisons with The Smiths end. No Moz thankfully, but the rather lovely voice of Ryan Kennedy. It says here. Very pleasant and melodic, in a jangly c86 way. In fact the whole thing sounds like the 80s filtered through an Instagram “Tropical sunset”, possibly with a faded polaroid overlay. “Maybe she loves you in a different way / Just hang on and wait... Please, talk to me...” opines Ryan. Washed out azure, that's what I'm thinking. In fact, their sound is somewhere between that band, uh, Washed Out and recentish Tame Impala, with gentle synth at the back.
'Andy' - love the way this begins – straight in, compressed drums, a few seconds of a nice groove, an echoey false stop - restart. “Andy...” (Male? Female? Who knows/cares?) “Please let me go... Andy, my heart cannot cope..Without you..” Gorgeous melodic guitar pop. With a refreshing hint of lemon.
'Broken Light', next, “filters through the blind / covers me where I lie / I've memorised it all / yesterday was someone I once knew.” Lovely spidery guitar. “The streetlights try to bury me and tonight I start again.” 'Let You Down' well, doesn't.. It heaps even more melancholy on top of the bittersweet. Best vocal so far from lead Horselad; deeper, a shade darker than before. Vermillion, maybe. “What have I done.... What have I done to you?” I dunno but cheer up pal. I like the drums here too. “And we were the perpetual death of our innocence..” Ahh.
'Midnight Part 2' is a more sedate, instrumental Balearic cousin to Impala's 'Backwards'. Gentle surf breaks on the shore; possibly on Horse Beach? Pleasant wavey synth, bass and drums continue for 3 minutes. Echoes to a pastel-hued halt. 'Dana' next, a friend of 'Andy'? Definitely a female though, this one; “She wears an oversized sweater to hide her oversized... heart.” Yes, I know what you were thinking there. So was I. Plenty of reverb and a sudden stop. Lush tangerine and melon.
“Disappear” - best drums of the lot, “Clouds” and “Avoid the Light” - not that you have much of an option in Manchester, eh? Eh? All top tunes. Jangle, head nods. It's all great stuff, impressive in a low-key way, just how I like it.
8/10 Matty Customer review, 26th October 2015
II is the second offering from Mancunian multi-instrumentalist Ryan Kennedy in as many years, and expands on the gorgeous, dreamy guitars that made Kennedy’s self-recorded debut sound so warm and pleasing.
Horsebeach’s sound draws similarities to the summery guitar pop that New York label Captured Tracks has a history of releasing. The dreamy melodic guitars that sit underneath Kennedy’s introspective vocals, combined with the lo-fi aesthetic that comes with the DIY approach to making a record, has helped to create a collection of songs that are very comparable to US artists such as Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing and Craft Spells.
The dream-pop genre, with its summery vibes and reverb tinged guitars, has generally found more success across the pond, and it has been rare to find upcoming British bands who take their influences from the drifting, laid back sound that so many current US bands have established. II is a record heavily indebted to shimmery US guitar pop, also made famous by the likes of Real-Estate and Ducktails, yet it still features the gritty melancholic qualities that help to give it a distinctly Northern English feel.
II takes the listener on a dreamy journey through warm, luscious soundscapes. Although it draws heavy similarities with US guitar pop contemporaries, there are few British bands channelling this sort of delicate, intricate, sound that make the genre such a pleasing listen. Horsebeach have combined the obviously British ‘C86’ influences, with a contrasting summery West-Coast feel, to create an exciting, nostalgic record that still has the distinct Manchester sound.
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