Super Wild Horses

Crosswords

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After the release of 2010 album Fifteen and the tour that followed, the Australian noise pop duo Super Wild Horses (vocalists/guitarists/drummers Amy Franz and Hayley McKee) decided to work a bit on expanding their rambunctiously garage-y sound into something a little more nuanced and varied. Totally good idea, because while Fifteen was a lot of fun, the songs got a little samey after a while. On 2013's Crosswords, the work they put into changing their approach pays off in a big way. Without forsaking the energy and ramshackle punch of Fifteen, the two add some welcome dynamics and space to their guitar drums attack and end up crafting something very special. There are still plenty of songs that wrap all kinds of cool stuff, like bewitching girl group vocal harmonies, lo-fi rockabilly swagger, twangy surf guitar rumble, and girls-in-the-garage jangle, into a very hooky package. The opening "Alligator" is a perfect example of the Horses at their previously established best, "Memphis" and "You Have Two Feet (So Run)" aren't too far behind. If the whole album had hit this sweet spot over and over it would have been perfectly fine. What makes it pop even more are the tracks that show something new and more poppy. When they jangle and bop sweetly like an amped-up Softies on "Heavy Step" or "West Coast" (which features some fine male counterpoint vocals from the Twerps' Rick Milovanovic), or scale all the way back to a late-night smolder on "Dragging the Fog," the results are easy to embrace. Their cover of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" shows just how well they have the whole arrangement thing figured out, as they tear the song down to the bare essentials and build it back up on their strong vocal harmonies and some pulsing, low-slung guitars. The duo's increased attention to how the record sounds, the variety of moods they create, and the overall strength of the songs and performances make Crosswords a very impressive leap ahead for a duo who already had something good going on.

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