I Break Horses

Hearts

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Pitched somewhere between synthed-up '80s mood-out and electronic-infused shoegaze, the Swedish duo I Break Horses may have a slightly off-kilter name, but Hearts is a fine, if often derivative, debut album, a classic instance of a band knowing who and what they love, but not to the point of making it their own. Part of the advantage of time has been how the embrace, however casual, of dance culture in a broad sense has played into swooning harmonies and feedback overload, something My Bloody Valentine were always keen on embracing. Given the duo's clear love of that band -- opening song "Winter Beats" almost turns into more of an MBV song as it goes -- it's little surprise to find it here, too, along with everyone and everything from New Order to Ulrich Schnauss; however, unlike an act such as School of Seven Bells, they have yet to galvanize their debt into something strikingly distinct. At the group's strongest moments, though, there's plenty to love, especially since they don't equate "power" solely with effects pedals and guitars; many of the songs are centered around keyboard arrangements. When a new, stern synth crunch on the title track is layered over the initial drift, the impact is quietly thrilling, while their ace in the hole in the future may be how well they start songs off on a calm note and then, without necessarily increasing the pace, build up layers of sound to create a more tightly wound, intense conclusion, as on "I Kill Your Love, Baby!" "Wired," with its comparatively cleaner start, strong beat punch, and conclusion on an endlessly rising feedback fanfare growing increasingly distorted and swirled, might be the stand-out of the set, but even more importantly, it signals that their best moments may be yet to come.

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