Horse Feathers

So It Is with Us

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The fifth long-player from the Justin Ringle-led Portland, Oregon-based indie folk ensemble, So It Is with Us commences with the Stones-ian "Violently Wild," a Let It Bleed-inspired blast of semi-propulsive Pacific Northwest Americana that finds the historically subdued collective trading in their bucolic suburban country folk for a more traditional, classic rock radio-friendly sound. "Thousand" dials things back a bit, but it retains the opener's chin-up demeanor, due in large part to Nathan Crockett's lively string arrangement -- his violin work on the ramshackle "Dead End Thanks" is also a highlight, invoking Fisherman's Blues-era Waterboys. Elsewhere, the meaty "Old Media" is a big, midtempo rocker that suggests Springsteen by way of Crooked Fingers, the lovely finger-picked "Middle Testament" hearkens back to 2012's Cynic's New Year without succumbing to any of its misanthropy, and the penultimate "The Knee" flirts with rainy English folk and Fleet Foxes-inspired spectral ambiance, dutifully paving the way for the equally subdued, yet no less lush and evocative closer "What We Become" to seal the deal. Throughout it all, the band manages to keep things simple without sacrificing hooks. The big roomy drum sound and penchant for setting relatively dry (yet bold) harmonies against a foundation of reverb-heavy instrumentation also helps, but it's the tunes themselves that resonate. While it's not all honky tonk women and street fighting men, Ringle and company have crafted a spirited set of songs that eschew the overcast patina of previous outings for a decidedly warmer hue, and though it may not be a party record, So It Is with Us at least makes a noble attempt to mingle with its guests.

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