by Josef McGuigan (@josp_93)
Horse Jumper of Love’s sophomore album sees the band taking a careful, methodical approach to their signature slowcore and emo sound. On their excellent 2016 debut, Horse Jumper found success in their sincere and straightforward style: song structures were simple and allowed huge guitar leads to contrast beautifully with singer Dimitri Giannopoulos’ soft and direct vocals. The album felt completely genuine in its pastiche, free from any and all contrived embellishment.
All of the ingredients that made up their 2016 debut are found on So Divine, but the directness of their approach has been completely abandoned. Instead, Horse Jumper wades through Giannopoulos’ memory pool, taking time to stop and examine whatever it is they find at a leisurely pace, pushing the group’s sound into less conventional territory and meandering through the possible directions that Horse Jumper of Love want to explore.
On So Divine, Horse Jumper approaches songwriting with a calm perspective, tacking gradually towards their eventual destination. While this doesn’t deliver the same iconic anthems that the straightforwardness of their debut favored, it allows for more complex and varied songs with a greater depth of nuance. Giannopoulos exercises the full range of his voice, and Horse Jumper manages to communicate a warmth and closeness that remains through the waves of guitars and sonic explorations: the calm repetition of chiming guitars on “Poison” lulling the listener to sleep while an avalanche of tension slowly builds; the unexpectedly satisfying and understated vocal and guitar lead left-turn in the second half of “John Song”; the delayed gratification on “Airport.” These are the unique moments that benefit from Horse Jumper’s newfound approach to songwriting and make So Divine so special.
While the band largely sticks to their established pallet of snappy drums and expansive guitars, the album remains sonically varied and interesting through the tasteful use of layered acoustic and distorted guitars and a range of drum sounds, avoiding excessive or flashy production tricks. This accentuates the band’s ability to be alternately expansive and intimate. The matured pace and methodical production of the album allows Horse Jumper to explore the extremities of their sound while also at times displaying Phil Elvrum levels of intimacy through plentiful room rustles, mouth sounds, and an introspective and personal lyrical approach.
While it isn’t as immediate as their debut album, So Divine is an excellent follow-up that provides a fully realized and cohesive album that successfully covers more ground than it should in its brief runtime. This calm exploration allows the band to expand beyond a simple soft/loud slowcore sound while remaining, as a complete package, quintessentially Horse Jumper.