As Robert Pollard’s trusted lieutenant in Guided By Voices for what many consider to be the band’s golden era, Tobin Sprout is one of American indie’s most valuable creative forces. On this new solo album Empty Horses, he engages with an alternative vision for Americana, available on vinyl and a special ‘bookpack’ CD edition with artwork and lyrics.
Vinyl LP £18.27 FIRELP594
LP on Fire.
- Includes download code
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CD £14.54 FIRECD594X
Deluxe Bookpack CD on Fire featuring 24-pages of exclusive artwork, paintings and lyrics.
- Only 2 copies left (2 people have this in their carts)
You know how some people know which of the Beatles’ songs were written by which Beatle? I’m pretty sure there are people like that for Guided By Voices. I am not one of those people, but half way through listening to Tobin Sprout’s ‘Empty Horses’ I wondered which of the songs on ‘Bee Thousand’ he wrote. Among others Sprout was responsible for ‘Awful Bliss’, ‘Ester's Day’, and ‘You're Not an Airplane’, a selection that made complete sense as I listened to his latest solo album.
Guided By Voices fans will know those songs as some of the most tender and emotional in the band’s catalogue, in a way that Robert Pollard occasionally seems completely disinterested in being. And ‘Empty Horses’ is like that, sweet and catchy, tender and emotional. Where Pollard was the band’s ex-quarterback rockstar, Sprout was the quiet balladeer.
Sprout sings, “hey now, I’ve called you bluff” on opener ‘Wings Prelude’. He sings it over a heart wrenching chord sequence on the piano and with each repetition is joined by more and more voices. It’s affirming, but sad, a pyrrhic victory in a bruised relationship. On ‘Every Sweet Soul’ he asks that the song’s subject to “bottle up your plans for me to understand”, an attempt to make things better.
Musically I’m most reminded of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Western Stars’ (though that might be the word “horses” doing a lot of heavy lifting). Musically they’re both interested in Americana (the guitars and stomping drums from ‘The Man I used To Know’ are a case in point), and they’re both earnest to a fault. Though that last point is something that Sprout and Springsteen have always shared.
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