This Horsebeach article was written by Matty Ayre, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
Horsebeach’s ‘II’ is the second offering from Mancunian multi-instrumentalist Ryan Kennedy in as many years, and expands on the gorgeous, dreamy guitars that made Kennedy’s self-recorded debut sound so warm and pleasing.
Horsebeach’s sound draws similarities to the summery guitar pop that New York label Captured Tracks has a history of releasing. The dreamy melodic guitars that sit underneath Kennedy’s introspective vocals, combined with the lo-fi aesthetic that comes with the DIY approach to making a record, has helped to create a collection of songs that are very comparable to US artists such as Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing and Craft Spells.
The dream-pop genre, with its summery vibes and reverb tinged guitars, has generally found more success across the pond, and it has been rare to find upcoming British bands who take their influences from the drifting, laid back sound that so many current US bands have established. ‘II’ is a record heavily indebted to shimmery US guitar pop, also made famous by the likes of Real-Estate and Ducktails, yet it still features the gritty melancholic qualities that help to give it a distinctly Northern English feel.
The chiming guitar lines of ‘It’s Alright’ points the record towards a mellow trajectory, with Beth de Cent adding gorgeous backing vocals that complement Kennedy’s warm, reflective tones. ‘Andy’ opens with jangly Smiths-like chords, whilst delicate synth tones glow in the background. The Morrissey comparisons are obvious, with Kennedy’s yearning, introspective vocals complementing the beautiful musical melodies. A neat bassline is matched with lush synthesiser sounds, combining to create a wistful climax to the track.
On ‘Broken Light’, hazy intricate guitars intertwine with warm synth tones, creating a perfect canvas for Kennedy to add his longing, reflective lyrics. ‘Midnight Part 2’ is a delicate instrumental, with dreamy bass and synth becoming more dominant and guitar becoming a little sparser. This track takes Horsebeach’s sound towards new territory, whilst the lack of guitar helps to add real space and gives the album room to breathe. ‘Dana’ opens with ethereal keys that float gently underneath Kennedy’s heavily reverbed vocals. This track could definitely feature on a Wild Nothing record, but it is a beautiful sound and one that Kennedy can write just as well as a chiming guitar-led song.
‘Disappear’ returns to the jangle-pop mastery that Horsebeach are so good at. At five minutes and 26 seconds, it is a distinctly long track for this type of genre; but it never feels overdone or drawn out. Intricate picked guitar lines intertwine brilliantly for the songs extended outro, proving that Kennedy can arrange songs better than many of his dream-pop contemporaries. ‘Clouds’ is another album highlight; again complementing flanged guitar chords with the warm swirl of analogue synths, helping to demonstrate that the record is finishing strongly.
Album closer ‘Avoid the Light’ finds Kennedy at his most thoughtful. The gentle, echoed undertones of yearning guitars accompany wishful keyboard lines, creating a haunting track that could possibly be the strongest on the album.
Ultimately, ‘II’ takes the listener on a dreamy journey through warm, luscious soundscapes. Although it draws heavy similarities with US guitar pop contemporaries, there are few British bands channelling this sort of delicate, intricate, sound that make the genre such a pleasing listen. Horsebeach have combined the obviously British ‘C86’ influences, with a contrasting summery West-Coast feel, to create an exciting, nostalgic record that still has the distinct Manchester sound.