Lullaby for the Working Class’ Blanket Warm is one of my favorite records, a pre-Saddle Creek Mike Mogis’ finest hour. There are few sets since that match that album’s well-churned mixture of blue-collar gruffness and arrangement elegance. Little Horn’s debut EP, Twelve, comes extremely close. Its best song is “Bridges Break,” a song that fits more sober depth into three-and-a-half minutes than most bands manage in an hour; don’t mind the “Champagne Supernova” guitar lick that opens the song. The initial sense of boozy indulgence is dried up by the nervously tapping drums, which contrast neatly with the lush triumph of the chorus’ guitar/horn break. That sense of internal conflict extends to the lyrics, which find singer Keith Forrester at odds with himself: “Your righteousness would be nothing without my sin,” he admits in “Morning Star,” while “Thief” opens with the crucial lines, “You know guilt is a thief in the night / It’ll take your life away.” Forrester’s oak-sturdy baritone anchors the sprawling guitar-centric arrangements, nodding toward the National’s Matt Berninger or Centro-Matic’s Will Johnson as well as Mogis.
It’s impressive, dynamic stuff, richer and more emotionally vivid than, say, Fleet Foxes or Midlake’s most recent offerings. (Listening to this, I’m pretty sure I’m hearing what most people do when they put on Bon Iver.) Five more songs and we’d be having a year-end list discussion; with Twelve in hand, though, we can wait another year.
Little Horn – “Bridges Break”: mp3
(Twelve is out now on Whale Heart Records and Spotify)