I Break Horses, Hearts
Entirely its own dreamy, electronic beast, even with crystal-clear reference points
You could be forgiven for thinking that the last thing the summer of 2011 needs is another dreamy, electronic shoegaze album. But Stockholm’s Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck have delivered one of the subgenre’s finest modern efforts so far, melding the usual roll-call of influences with a level of emotional depth, wry intellect and genuine devotion that few of their contemporaries have matched.
The strident analogue tones of opener “Winter Beats” prefigure the album’s overarching mood, taking a pinch of M83′s earnest urgency and layering it up with the kind of gauzy vocals that have become as integral to this sound as the triplet-rhythm shuffle beat is to glam rock. The title track delivers body-blow walls of sound without straying onto the wrong side of pomposity. And the icily elegant chimes of “Cancer” call to mind a lost Cocteau Twins track commingled with the almost Church-like harmonies of early-’00s Warp acts like Plaid, hitting the sweet spot between ethereal splendor and unfussy eighties power-rock that so many crave, and so few reach.
But for all the crystal-clear reference points, Hearts is entirely its own beast, both impeccably of its time and wildly out of time, forging new hues from well worn paths in a way that’s near-impossible not to adore. If there was any room left for melancholic indie-shoegaze this year, it’s just been snapped up, and it’s hard to imagine a finer album raising the last glass.