The heart of An Horse’s magic is rubbery and elastic. Rows of slinky, hypnotic spirals, widening middle-out. They’ve never spun to more vibrant and dynamic impact than on their third album Modern Air.
Loosely from wherever-you’re-seeing-them-play-tonight-by-way-of-Brisbane-to-Montreal-and-New-York, Kate & Damon woke up from a six-year nap to make their best, broadest and most accomplished album, doubling-down on and clarifying their strongest strengths while casually developing and showcasing a career’s-worth of new ones.
Before their 6 year break, An Horse were two albums into their career and touring non-stop with the likes of Tegan and Sara, Death Cab for Cutie, Silversun Pickups, Nada Surf, Cage the Elephant, and Brand New when a series of distracting life events forced them into a hiatus of sorts. That hiatus led to an extended break from touring and recording that’s finally ending with their 2019 album Modern Air, out May 3 on Lame-O Records.
The songs on their new record manage to be both propulsive and loping, lean mission statements about negotiating modern living easter-egged with intelligence and humor, melodic and percussive ear candy, heart and teeth, hope and anger.
They sound like themselves, two-headed and singularly focused, a particularly effective evolutionary step in a long tradition of of guitar-based indie-rock, angular in spaces, jangly in others, sometimes both at the same time. They take a familiar vocabulary and teach it new words, one sugary harmony barbed-wired to unflinching insight at a time.
Modern Air is An Horse at their most realized, and it’s right on time. Some naps are worth taking.
(Photo Credit: Amelia Shaw)
On the night of the last US Presidential election, when things were starting to feel uncomfortable, I went to bed. It was the only thing I could do to cope. I thought I would wake up and it would have been close but we would all be okay. Women, POC, LGBTQI and other underrepresented groups — we’d be fine.
I woke up the next morning with that amnesia that comes with a good night’s sleep. My girlfriend was up already and she didn’t even have to open her mouth. She looked at me and I could tell. I got that terrible sinking feeling.
I left my house to head to my office and ran into my neighbor in the stairs. The sky was grey and the cold was starting to set into Montreal. The cold that lasts for six months. It’s a heavy feeling and it marks the start of a collective descent into an unacknowledged depression or anxiety. I didn’t start with hello. I said,
“I can’t fucking believe it.”
He looked at me quizzically.
I said, “Trump won.”
He laughed at me and shook his head. He might have said something like, “Wild times.”
He is American. I am Australian. He could have voted and I couldn’t. He laughed and I didn’t. That was my second moment of disbelief for the morning. A low key anger started forming in me.
At the office a young white male colleague burst in with a huge cackle and asked if we could believe the news. He too is American. I stood there shocked. What was happening?
Men were laughing at the fact this absolutely under-qualified puppet was now the leader of the United States. Had they stopped to think what was possible with this fool as president? They didn’t need to think out if they could get an abortion. Or about the possibilities that their marriages might become null and void with a single signature. They didn’t need to worry about being abused when they walked home from work.
That election and the fallout felt surreal to me. Maybe this was exacerbated as an Australian living in Canada. I had no say in Trump getting elected and I don’t get to vote in Canada. But I do get to vote in Australia.
We were out on tour for the last federal election with fellow Australians Camp Cope. The Australian Consulate in San Francisco didn’t have democracy sausages (an Australian culinary masterpiece that involves a slice of white supermarket bread upon which a bbq’d sausage is lovingly placed and then covered in tomato sauce aka ketchup. If you are lucky your polling station will offer grilled onions or even a veggie sausage. This is the reward for voting in Australia. It’s compulsory but look, mate, ya get a snag on white bread). Apparently they weren’t allowed to bbq inside, something to do with fire regulations in the building. They did say they tried for lamingtons but were told they weren’t in the budget. Unmoved by these shortcomings we voted anyway. Despite living in Montreal, I follow Australian politics closely. I’d like to think I have a grasp on what’s going on at home. The Camp Cope crew confirmed what I had optimistically suspected, Labor were going to win. The Liberal party, our conservative party, couldn’t win. The Liberals had a new leader — a hyper conservative Christian named Scott Morrison. He was unpopular but Scott Morrison did win.
Our friend Amelia Shaw, who made the video for “Started A Fire,” has toured with us and documented An Horse for years. She was out with us on the Camp Cope tour and got to hear the song every night. She nailed visually what the song is trying to do. The video is woozy and it’s trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.
The startling jolt of the low-key anxiety that was brought on by the election of Donald Trump has lasted far beyond that first winter. I wrote “Started A Fire” in those first few weeks of Trump getting elected. I was trying to figure it all out. I still am.
— Kate Cooper
(Photo Credit: Amelia Shaw)