Album Review of Trials & Truths by Horse Thief.
Release Date: Jan 27, 2017
Record label: Bella Union
“‘Cause everybody wants another chance”, sings Cameron Neal on “Another Youth”, the opener of Horse Thief’s second LP, Trials & Truths. Indeed, Horse Thief may not have wanted a second chance, but they needed one. Their debut record, 2014’s Fear In Bliss, was a solid outing and showed potential, sure, but it wasn’t the sound of the band operating at full capacity or one who were entirely sonically focused.
The quintet that comprise Horse Thief spent their formative years studying together at Oklahoma’s Academy of Contemporary Music before letting loose their Fear In Bliss debut. It’s resulted in a sense of ease with each other’s company, a familiarity that has proved musically benefical, helping their second album to feel as effortless as a slip of hand into glove. We thought that perhaps this self-styled Thief had procured a steed from Band Of Horses – that anthemic and uplifting Americana that gallops through the music here, sharpened with bitter-sweetness and possessing much the same sense of life’s unfolding travelogues.
Picking up where their 2014 debut with Bella Union left off, Trials & Truths is the second long-player by Oklahoma City-based Horse Thief. It reunites the quintet's tumbleweed-shaded psych-pop with Fear in Bliss producer Thom Monahan, whose résumé includes the likes of Devendra Banhart, Wild Nothing, and Fruit Bats. For Horse Thief, he seems to give shape to their sprawling guitar textures while leaving enough shimmer to transport listeners out of bedroom headphones, through flues, into dusty expanses.
Trials and Truths, Horse Thief’s second album, is a solid set of easygoing, straightforward rock. Every song is good, a couple of them are better, and the band manages to come up with a handful of catchy riffs and choruses. So why didn’t the record move me more? Possibly it’s because many these songs are so straightforward that they end up feeling a bit bland.
Americana is a crowded field these days, but Texas-by-way-of-Oklahoma outfit Horse Thief did enough to stand out with their 2014 debut Fear In Bliss. With singer Cameron Neil’s off-kilter yet heartfelt vocals, it brought hints of something wild-eyed and psych-tinged: think the big-sky balladeering of Band of Horses rubbing up against the freak-folk of early Animal Collective. It’s disappointing to report then, that for their follow-up, Horse Thief have dialled down the unusual in favour of a sound that’s more MORish.