Chris Von Sneidern

The Wild Horse [Bonus Track]

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After a few years spent wandering the concept album hallways and flattening out crumpled balls of forgotten poetry, Chris Von Sneidern returned to the lush pop landscape for Wild Horse (Innerstate). The piano-driven opener, "Remember," is appropriately jaunty, but it's the false bottom of a bittersweet box of treats. "When all my friends bought second houses they were pleased," he sings in the pretty yet foreboding "Glory Days Are Gone." "I took the bus and thought I'd maybe make the rent." Von Sneidern's a bit jaded it seems, but at least he hasn't lost his knack for a hook. He struggles with similar issues throughout Wild Horse but never fails to wrap the mortality, identity, and musings on middle age in waves of crackling guitar, power pop bursts, or stately piano. Standouts include the stirring, rustic epic "Great American Dream," the aforementioned "Glory Days," and the rousing '70s-style rocker "Ooh Mama Mama," which offers a break from some of the album's more dour moments. Von Sneidern handled production himself, and he tricks out Wild Horse with plenty of nice touches. The breathy harmonies of "(Watch Them) Ride Away" are in perfect balance with the track's moody piano, while harmonica twinges the waltzing "Horse House." Von Sneidern's bitter pills and melancholy self-defeat can be a bit hard to take over a whole album. But his varied songcraft and tasteful instrumentation soften the blow considerably.

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