Kevin Devine with An Horse


Editorial Review

Album review: "Walls"

Two-person bands are not designed for versatility, so it's no surprise that An Horse's second album, "Walls," sounds a lot like its first. Kate Cooper's multi-tracked voice still parries with itself, paced by her guitar and Damon Cox's drums. But Cooper's battles with love, loss and loneliness have lost none of their urgency, and neither has the group's music.

The duo began Down Under (Cooper has since moved to Montreal), which might explain its sense of isolation and distance. "Maybe it's my convict blood," Cooper muses in "Swallow the Sea," a reference to Australia's days as a British penal colony. Musically, Cooper often builds her own little community, layering vocals into a chorus. The track "Know This, We've Noticed" turns the lyric "We've noticed, we've noticed / That you're not fine" into a raggedly insistent singalong.

Without their accompaniment, the lyrics can seem grim. Such songs as "Airplane Death" and "Trains and Tracks" evoke imminent doom and collapse. "What happens when the batteries run out?" asks the latter. Yet the band's energy never flags, even when Cooper switches to acoustic guitar. The surging music is an essential part of the conversation, revealing the vitality, determination and, yes, joy that are just as integral to these songs as are Cooper's rueful words.

--Mark Jenkins, Oct. 14, 2011