Horse Jumper of Love are a self-proclaimed “slow rock” band from Boston. Given the genre tag, you would be forgiven for thinking this sophomore effort, their first for new label Run for Cover Records, is made up of long noodling instrumental tracks. Curiously, however, none of the numbers here breach the four-minute mark.
All of the songs are slow in tempo, though. The band’s sound generally features a mixture of softly spoken vocals, melancholic lyrics, warm, woozy guitar, and minimalist lo-fi arrangements. Having said that, the group don’t stick too rigidly to this format, as there is the odd curveball here and there, such as on opener Airport which lulls you in with its sweet, airy melody, only to burst into a squall of distorted guitar, making for a discombobulating but thrilling listening experience.
The next track Volcano is equally surprising as guitarist/singer Dimitri Giannopoulos’s usual gentle croon briefly turns into a Cobain-esque howl halfway through the track. Both these numbers represent an excellent one-two punch and set up the expectation of a truly exceptional record. It’s an expectation which, unfortunately, is never quite realised.
That’s not to say it is all downhill from there, only that there are only a couple of other tracks which hit the heights of the opening two, like the sinister reverb-heavy Ur Real Life or the off-kilter country rock/space rock hybrid Nature.
Also, some of the group’s greatest strengths are also their greatest weaknesses. While their slow rhythms can be wonderfully hypnotic, they can also slip into being merely soporific, with the glacially-paced and repetitive first single Poison being a prime example. It is possible that this was the intention as Giannopoulos has said the song’s repetitions are supposed to capture the repetitions of everyday working life, but it manages to be every bit as turgid as that sounds.
Similarly, while the band’s sound can be moving and heart-warming, it can sometimes tip into the overly-saccharine, such as on Aliens, a track where the jangling guitars and offbeat electronic effects meet to tooth-grindingly twee effect.
So Divine is an intelligent, well-made record with some real moments of magic and is sure to be very well received by a certain college rock audience. However, there are also some real missteps here, and you sense Horse Jumper of Love’s best is yet to come.