Holy Motors, Horse, (Wharf Cat Records)
Coming at you straight outta’ Estonia, Holy Motors have always been a reverb and twang act, in that order, that is until this fall when they released their best ever record that moved the twang to the forefront and revolutionize their dreamy and dark sound. Opener “Country Church” (hint: It’s only open on Sundays) is filled with the type of awe and wonder only a band touring the US for the first time could muster at the site of such an entity, and the sheer wonder in vocalist Tulve’s phrasings really make you wish you weren’t so jaded. The metaphysically romantic “Endless Night” is a thing of sheer beauty, and when the chorus hook kicks in it’s a real “let me rewind that back” moment. There’s some real surprises on here too. Look no further than “Road Stars” if you want to hear an actual call-and-response honky tonk duet, and “Matador” sounds interestingly like the type of Nirvana slow burner Kurt used to relegate to the back end of his records, only rendered in a cacophonous chamber of echoes and pedal steel. Even the songs that used to be the Motors weak spot, dreamy, creeping late night drive strummers that all blended into one another, are here marked with distinct points to differentiate them from each other, the spine tingling solo on “Come On, Slowly” and the sudden wash of strings on “Midnight Cowboy to name two, rendering this the most immediate music they have ever laid down. Another standout track, “Trouble”, is almost a rocker which is certainly something you never would have expected from such a notoriously restrained unit. In keeping their core principles but adding in touches of sun-dappled Americana, ambient noise, and a slightly increased tempo, Estonia’s best band has elevated themselves to one of the best bands, period.