by Colin Vallee (@ColinJBeard)
Seattle, Washington's Posse have grasped onto that all elusive "effortless cool" factor many people spend their whole lives chasing. Their songs are ambling, taut, and personal, with steady drums, wistful guitar leads, and snakey vocals that draw out the last bit of emotion necessary to bring these songs over the edge. It's also worth mentioning that Posse has never been a band that tours heavily, and I can't find any indication that they've toured at all. Sacha Maxim, Paul Wittman-Todd, and Jon Salzman all have serious day jobs, and played in the band in their spare time. Posse has gained its following by putting out excellent records, and the internet, ever diligent, has spread the joy far and wide.
Posse's previous release, 2014's Soft Opening, had a poppier, more initially accessible indie rock sound that found attitude in the corners of the mundane. While that same attitude is still apparent here in the songwriting, Horse Blanket takes a much more wizened and removed approach to these topics. The songs cook and roll around in the compositions, squeezing out every bit of emotion from the instruments and singers. All of this culminates in a 12 minute epic at the penultimate track, the eponymous "Horse Blanket".
The album opens up with "Dream Sequence," a reverb laden, spoken word poem by Maxim about (what I assume is) a dream. Its driving beat, lilty guitar, and abstract story lead you through the doorway to the rest of the album. What follows next is "Shiver," which has one of my favorite refrains, "I'm not sure I can deliver". There is something so simple about the way Wittman-Todd sings it on this song, I get a mix of sadness, regret, and forgiveness all at once. Maybe this is a song about realizing our own limitations and shivering at the prospect of our own human weaknesses. Or maybe it's not and I'm feeling glum right now because I've been sick for the past week straight. Who can say?
Posse get a lot of Yo La Tengo comparisons and I never really fully got behind them until I heard the second half of this album. "Keep Me Awake" sounds like it was taken right from the YLT rulebook. Take a nonsense lovers-spat over say, a misunderstanding over an inside joke, and then write an epic, rocking song about it. Posse have taken this formula and crafted an excellent song that stands on its own merits. Once that guitar solo kicks in the song blows wide open.
"Stupid Thing" brings Maxim back to show off her singing chops with a pleasant song about lies and being dishonest with people who matter to you. "You told me you were tired/Such a stupid way to lie/Such a stupid thing to do when you're around me". "Horse Blanket" (the track) is a 12 minute jam of dynamic guitar work and awesome trance inducing Salzman drums. This whole album feels like it's about the secret distances which grow between people over time, and this track takes that idea and runs with it. The fact that Horse Blanket turned out to be Posse's farewell album shouldn't be surprising. The final track here, "Trapped," is a nice coda. Bringing us out of the depths the previous track brought us into, by claiming "Maybe this was all just a bad dream?"
This album also shipped with an actual horse blanket when it was first released, but I regret to inform you they are all definitely gone now. Horse Blanket is absolutely worth a listen. And once you're done listening to it, go ahead and listen to their other albums too. Posse has yet to cease to amaze me, and I'm excited for what's next from its members.