Oklahoma has long since set the backdrop to a very particular brand. That dusty, sun dried blend of guitar-rich folk and alternative rock conjuring images of tumbleweeds blown across the never ending highway as it winds its way towards the distant mountains that frame the landscape.
Well, America’s central south looks set to do it again.
Fear In Bliss is the debut album from Horse Thief. Set for release on April 14th, it represents a slightly new approach to what we may be accustomed to from the region. With lyrics and tone ranging from subdued to anthemic, it’s full of a youthful freshness that invites the listener to perhaps think slightly outside the box when it comes to an evolving genre.
Horse Thief, led by front man and lyricist Cameron Neal, have been making waves since this year’s SXSW, winning well earned praise and scoring rave reviews across the States ahead of their forthcoming UK and European tour.
The album delightfully showcases Neal’s diverse lyrical ability. Ranging from confessional to metaphorical, it offers what will perhaps be considered as an alternative look at Americana.
And the band have summed up this diverse range superbly with the newly released video for the single Devil.
The track is a lush, happy sound. It ticks along offering a non stop charming guitar based indie sound, whilst the video may offer a hint into a very personal journey for front man Neal.
It’s about as metaphorical as it gets. The youthful subject is stripped bare, facing her demons. It seems to explore the sacrifices which must be made to achieve a perhaps elusive healing, whilst strongly pointing towards a darker side which is far from concealed beneath the surface. As well as a very personal journey, the video may also reflect the tone of the entire album, as Neal explains. ” It’s about finding yourself and what you believe in. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression which comes out a lot on the album. But when everything gets rough, I think there’s always a way to fix it”.
Fear In Bliss is a refreshing and joyful presentation of unabashed honesty comprising of several highlights which perfectly showcase that aforementioned diversity.
Dead Drum is one of those foot-stomping tunes, packed with that wonderfully distinctive sound of Americana guitar. Its dreamy acoustic riff will transport you right back to that sun dried, orange, dusty Oklahoma landscape. And it’s complimented beautifully elsewhere on the album, not least the anthemic Human Geographer.
For me, the record’s hidden gem is Already Dead. It just perfectly sums up my meaning when I spoke about range. This track is poignant, intimate and even quite beautifully haunting. It holds a charm that flows from the enchanting to the captivating before moving into the realms of thought provoking. To me, it’s even reminiscent of a sound that for most of us comes from closer to home, hinting at the Smiths, perhaps the Cure.
But it’s this mix and match of sounds and feelings that will make Fear In Bliss a success. Producer Tom Monahan has helped the band fuse their renowned stage performance with a refined, studio quality sound which superbly showcases a real lyrical talent.
It’s early days for a band that will seek to make the progression from promising to proven, but for a band in it’s infancy Horse Thief carry a sound that is already distinctive. I, for one will be waiting expectantly for the group’s next offering.
Stay tuned for details and a reminder of the tour.