Taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

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Horse Feathers — House With No Name There’s one thing that any up-and-coming singer-songwriter should take into consideration during the production process and that is to merely strive to be understood. I don’t mean that on any metaphorical level, but in the simplest terms possible. What casual listener is going to embrace a musician whose bread-and-butter is the weight that their words carry if you can’t really make out a single word of it? It seems as though this idea fell just beyond Justin Ringle’s grasp during the making of his band Horse Feathers’ ( sophomore album House With No Name. Ringle’s light, folksy pitch flutters and quivers far into Aaron Neville-soft territory alongside a sparse landscape of classical and folk, but it all falls much too close to mumbling for comfort. Underneath it all, you get the sense that there are compelling stories replete with complex, interesting characters subjected to any number of unforgiving circumstances. There’s really no way of knowing without a lyric sheet at hand, however. What kind of listening experience is that? The arrangement of violin, cello, viola, banjo, mandolin and saw provide a gorgeous, sweeping compliment to Ringle’s incoherency. But you can’t help but wish for a bluegrass jam to erupt from the monotony that overpowers the album about four tracks in. Some dissonance and abstraction on “Albina” provide the needed relief from the morphine-injected cadence that persists from track to track, but it still leaves little for the listener to latch on to.

The Rosebuds — Life Like You will usually hear the term “post-hype sleeper” in reference to dazzling baseball prospects with all of the skills to be superstars, but just don’t put it together right away for one reason or another. They disappear off of the radar while the next wave of talent takes their place, but come charging back around from time to time with flashes of the same brilliance that initially got them noticed. You could very easily apply that moniker to Raleigh indie-rock duo the Rosebuds (www.myspace. com/therosebuds), a band with all the potential to really break through to bigger things, but that still seems to fall just short with every release. There’s still a lot of promise in the band’s fourth release, Life Like, an album that seems cheerful when compared to the dark and despaired, yet completely danceable, prior release Night of the Furies. That’s not to say that Life Like doesn’t possess its own unique brand of melancholy, however. “Bow to the Middle” might find its way onto the indie dance-club playlists, but its reference to the bane of middling political indifference deserves a more pedantic treatment. Indeed, the bleakness of their previous work is there, though it’s done with a forced smile in the form of lighter instrumentation. But it’s certainly still there and buried in phrases like the title track’s “Well oh well, the pines are getting to me/ Consider my life, I’m wild but I’m not free.” Life Like as a whole does a nice job of tying the notable characteristics of the band’s three previous albums into one neat package, however portentously, but like its predecessors, still might not get this sleeper act the recognition they