Shoes & Rider – S/T

The Dutch Courage folks call Shoes & Rider’s debut album an EP, but at just over 30 minutes, it’s longer than many full-lengths that come through DOA headquarters. But they are right in describing the music in these five songs “uniquely gentle.” Gentle is the perfect way of describing Shoes & Rider.

This four-piece plays a style of music that falls quite nicely between the slow-core prettiness of bands like Low or the Dirty 3 and the more complex yet subtle nature of bands like Cerberus Shoal and Saso. Each of these five songs is long and gently flowing, with quiet, melodic guitar, light, airy beats, and an underlay of moodier cello and contemplative vocals. It makes for a charming if slightly melancholy feel.

The 9-minute “Reflecting Pools” makes use of some gorgeous cello, and the vocals, when they come in completely unhurried around the 3 ½ minute mark, are quiet and subtle, mixed softly in with the quiet, melodic guitar, light beat, and mild electronic sounds. The vocals are used more extensively on the slightly quieter “Novelty,” which has this gorgeous, quiet sensibility to it, sort of like a more reserved Very Secretary song. The instrumental “Call and Response” gets a little too slow, but the pace picks up about halfway through, and suddenly it turns into a more urgent, more powerful song. The whispered vocals on “Pendulum” come in late and act as another instrument, making this an airy song that does pick up the pace a few times, especially by the end as piano and cello mix wonderfully. And “Lead Me Where it Goes” finishes up even quieter, but the vocals take more prominence, and this one truly feels like a slow-core song, simple and yet endearing and emotional, but it picks up nicely for quite a crashing closure.

Shoes & Rider’s one fault is that they tend to languish a bit in their gentle, melancholy nature. Making music that’s quiet and subtle will always have that fault if you don’t do enough to change up the pace and mood. And most of the time Shoes & Rider do that amazingly well. The addition of keyboard and cello to the traditional rock line-up makes these songs refreshing. This is one hell of a debut.