Country-folk reminiscence and urban storytelling
Cory Hanson, known for his work with the psychedelic-rock band as both vocalist and guitarist of the band Wand, has created his sophomore solo album Pale Horse Rider with large folk and country-rock influences to create a beautiful picture of the modern landscape. Memory is highly important to the work’s simple elegance through its nostalgic, stripped-down instruments and vocals that connect listeners through all walks of life.
The folk-inspired opening track “Paper Fog” is entrancing in its pacing. Complex piano accompanies the dreamy vocals in a visceral ballad which lingers as a story told over a fire. It is stripped to its essentials while encapsulating a striking complexity that—unlike many rock albums reviewed this year—is found in its ambiance. There is magnitude in music that sticks to order, and it makes this track immediately memorable, especially for those who enjoy the influences of old-school country and folk music.
It is beyond exciting to see more artists be drawn to the folk genre, its power is nearly limitless. “Angeles” and “Limited Hangout” act as complements, reinforcing the thesis of the album. With its country-rock vocals, it describes the city in a romanticized way, as if part of a mythology. In its thoughtful, drawn-out lines, the song acts as a lingering memory in which Hanson desires to recount. A moment to canonize. Perhaps the attention to the mundane is what makes the album so captivating—there is an attention to detail in folk songs that other types of songwriting fail to neglect.
“Birds of Paradise” proves to the greatest extent Pale Horse Rider’s lyricality. As the verse concludes with “you hold me in your arms,” the devastation increases. While instrumentals are lusher in tone, the desperation and romanticism of the vocalist grows. Describing his lover with forest imagery, the instrumentals eventually erupt to reflect a world in which he has escaped, trying to find his lover. Like much of the album, memory and dream amalgamates into a type of folklore.
“Vegas Knights” is the shortest non-instrumental track on the album, yet it proves so much in its allotted time. While country-heavy, Hanson proves that country is a lost art that is largely neglected by modern rock musicians. Its acoustic instrumentals are the closest to catchy on the album, reiterating a certain rhythm that is promoted with fireside chats. The backup vocals recall this, connecting one immediately to it with inherent intimacy.
“Another Story From the Center of the Earth” is the reflection of this. By being the longest song on the album, no moment is wasted. Even in the slow instrumentals, not a note is squandered in creating its soundscape. With its hard rock undertones, this is perhaps closest to “true rock” one sees on the album, however, it does not seem largely out of place. The connection of the vocalist to the world around him is uncanny. It is a sublime connection that does not act overbearing even with its reverb and a lengthy guitar solo.
Perhaps all is encapsulated within Pale Horse Rider’s titular track, as violins and piano perfectly complement the lyrics, the musicality is undeniable. Its chorus evokes 1970s rock, its backing vocals reminding one of a musical powerhouse such as Fleetwood Mac in Rumors. The lyrics seamlessly melt into one another as if in a powerful moment. Classical instruments are a fascinating choice in portraying such a song as if noting bygone eras and their unseen applicabilities to today. Thoroughly, every moment of it makes one fall more deeply into Hanton’s reminiscence, blending past and contemporary influences to allow its listeners to dive deeply into the romantic urban landscape.