Adam Franklin's had a long career in music, starting with Swervedriver back in the '90s and making his way through various projects and solo albums. Impressive thing is, it's all been good, and much of it has even been great. Some people just have the knack to make everything they do sound just right and Franklin is one of them. Shoegaze, experimental, electronic...he's turned it all to gold thanks to his unerring knack for writing memorable vocal and guitar melodies, his laconic storytelling voice, and the sympathetic musicians he's always been able to surround himself with. His last album, Bolts of Melody, did a very good job of mixing the noisier aspects of Swervedriver with the more relaxed feel of some of his previous solo work. Released in 2013, Black Horses represents something a little new for Franklin. While the album is still moored by the usual intertwined guitars and it's not worlds away from his typical sound, there is a pronounced soundtrack music influence that flows through the album. There's also been some soundtracky element to Franklin's music, most notably on songs like "Last Train to Satansville," but it's very obvious here. Two songs carry songwriting credits from soundtrack music icons (Ennio Morricone on "Warped by the Rain" and John Barry on "Boom"), there's a track that samples Bollywood legend Asha Bhosle ("Asha"), and there's an overall mood to the album that conjures up late-night scenes, mortally wounded gunfighters, and montages of heartbroken lovers being moody. Franklin and his band put tons of care into the sounds of the album: guitars blare like trumpets, the keyboards and cellos wobble and swoon, and the arrangements are evocative and rich. It's a fuller, more thoughtful sound than Franklin usually goes for and it fits the songs he's written perfectly. The drifting, shifting instrumentals like "Coda Code" and the songs' long stretches of wordless melody and mood like "When I Love You (I Love You All the While)" are well served by the approach, as are the more typically Swervedriver-like songs like "Boocat Leah" and "Asha." The tracks that stretch out and apply the soundtrack style to Swervedriver-esque songs are the most interesting on the album, chiefly the showstoppingly honest "I Used to Live for Music," which sounds like the last song ever written and proves Franklin to be a master of nuance and a crack hand at the whole soundtrack thing. It's pretty rare that a musician can keep a productive and interesting career going for more than a couple years. To do it for as long as Franklin has, and to deliver one of his best, most interesting albums this late in the game, is truly astonishing.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra