(Disclaimer: This group has made the blog rounds, so you may be bored/amazed by my keen ability to somehow remain constantly behind the curve. What can I say? It’s a special talent.)
That I let Horse Feathers’ Words Are Dead (available at eMusic) slip through the cracks in ’06 is either a sign of my slowly deteriorating brain cells or that I was really wrapped up in my favorites of the year. (I’ll pick the latter; please, indulge me here.)
I even saw the Portland, Ore., duo in Los Angeles (along with the Drunkard, Ben and Robot Mark, who did a fine job of putting on the show). Justin Ringle and Peter Broderick use an assortment of stringed instruments (and a saw; yes, a saw) to great effect – creating a haunting quietness you’re almost sure to disturb if you so much as breathe wrong. Try whispering to someone during the set and watch dirty looks descend upon you.
That makes for both an unsettling and enthralling atmosphere. I’ve only ever felt that when I’ve seen Richard Buckner (many times) and, more recently, Jose Gonzalez. Though I’m not as taken with Ringle’s voice pitch as I am with Buckner’s husky tones, Ringle carries plenty of feeling through more nervous tendencies: jumpy inflections and quick crescendos. He probably works harder to coax more out of his voice than a lot of the monotone indie-folksters.
Add to that the mood-setting string arrangements – witness the tempo/emotional burst of change on Falling Through the Roof – and Words Are Dead has a more commanding presence than you’d initially expect.
Horse Feathers | Falling Through the Roof
HOWEVER, words are not entirely dead. I have been intrigued by the American Dialect Society’s choice of “plutoed” as its 2006 word of the year. From Associated Press:
To “pluto” is “to demote or devalue someone or something,” much like what happened to the former planet last year when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto didn’t meet its definition of a planet.