Don’t be misled by the apparent bare bones two-person lineup of Australian duo An Horse. “Rearrange Beds,” the debut album from singer/guitarist Kate Cooper and drummer Damon Cox, has a sound that’s fuller than many offerings from five- and six-piece bands today.
The 10-song, 35-minute record moves along at a clip, with songs ranging from the punky, three-chord “Postcards” to the haunting, acoustic echo of “Listen.” Somewhere in between falls “Little Lungs,” a two-note treasure that builds from a sleepy near-whisper to a crashing slew of cymbals, distorted guitars and strained vocals over the course of nearly six minutes.
Mom and Pop
Cooper, who says she comes from a literary family and briefly pursued journalism at university before quitting to work in a record store, uses clever turns of phrase to expose her inner music junkie (“Like that good Hole album, I can Live Through This”) or breathe new life into tired clichƒ©s (“I’ve had a little too much to think”).
Though Cooper provides the basic backbone for most of the songs, she relies on Cox to doctor them up.
“Damon has a much better ear than me,” she said matter-of-factly in a recent interview. “I’m actually kind of tone deaf, so I bring stuff to him and he makes it sound better.”
Perhaps the best part of An Horse being a two-piece is that the minimal instrumentation allows listeners to pay more attention to each member’s individual contribution and realize how much they complement each other.
The urgent, galloping drumbeat courtesy of Damon that propels “Scared as Fuck” (nee “Warm Hands,” on the EP) allows the duo to live up to its name, while his handiwork during the second chorus of “Company” heightens the tense urgency of Cooper’s pleas to an erstwhile lover: “I’m trying to get you in / I’m trying to get you over, and / I’m trying to be brave.”
Cooper, meanwhile, has an appealing way of stretching out her words, which, combined with her nasally delivery, betrays a sense of vulnerability and heartbreak. It’s as if she’s wailing lines like “I can see so well / And you’re nowhere to be seen.”
Most of the songs find Cooper pining over (presumably) a failed relationship. She said she wrote the songs during “a really bad year.”
“It’s pretty much a 12-month period that was just really terrible,” she said, without elaborating. “I spent way too much time laying in my bedroom feeling sorry for myself writing records and writing songs.”
As a whole, “Rearrange Beds” can be interpreted as an ode to lost love – or possibly to one that hasn’t been discovered. It kicks off with Cooper singing, “This is a song for the one that I love / I haven’t met them yet, but I’m quietly confident.”
If her band’s musical abilities are any indication, that confidence isn’t misplaced.