CD Review: The Boy Least Likely To, “The Law of the Playground”

The Law of the Playground

It’s been said that The Boy Least Likely To sounds like what would happen “if all your childhood stuffed animals got together and started a band.”  A slightly terrifying thought, but there really aren’t too many other descriptions that so neatly classifies the sweetly innocent tunes that the band produces.

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Interview: An Horse

An Horse

I’m bound to receive more than a few quizzical looks from fellow grammar Nazis by publicly professing my love of Australian indie pop band An Horse, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. The music created by the duo of Kate Cooper (vocals/guitar) and Damon Cox (drums/vocals) is quickly gathering a healthy worldwide fan base, despite the band being relatively new to the scene. Heck, their full-length debut, Rearrange Beds, isn’t even available in stores yet, but they’ve already enjoyed touring Australia with Death Cab For Cutie and performing stateside dates opening for Tegan and Sara, which brought them to Madison last year. Not bad, eh?

Cooper and Cox first met several years ago while working together at a Brisbane record store. “We spent a couple of years just talking music and selling records,” explained Cooper. “We always kind of talked about playing together but we were both busy doing other things [Cooper was playing in Iron On, and Cox in Intercooler and Mary Trembles], and then one day Damon asked me to open up for one of his other bands solo. I said ‘Well, you know, we’ve always talked about us playing together. Why don’t you drum with me?’ We went into the practice room and started practicing and we kind of just liked it, and it worked well. That’s kind of how it all started.”

What started out as a fun collaboration between friends quickly became something much more thanks to a little help from Canadian indie rocker twins Tegan and Sara. The Australian leg of the girls’ tour led them to an in-store performance at Skinny’s, the record store where Cooper and Cox kept shop. During the downtime surrounding the show, the bands began chatting and struck up a friendship. Though Cooper and Cox hadn’t even toured as An Horse in their home country yet, Tegan and Sara were so impressed by the talents of their new friends that they soon gave the pair an offer they could hardly refuse: join them on the American leg of their 2008 tour. “It was a little overwhelming at first,” admitted Cox, “but we were up for it and it was very exciting.”

Months later, An Horse are now set to return to the states as headliners (including a stop at Madison’s own High Noon Saloon), and release their massively impressive debut, Rearrange Beds. Though often referred to in the music press as a “breakup album,” Cooper said, “It was just about a bit of a rough year that I had…I just feel sorry for Damon having to listen to me whine and moan because the whole time I was having a bad time was when I was with him and he had to hear it everyday about me having a rough time. Now he has to play the songs every night. He seems to think that it’s not an issue, but I just feel bad for him.”

Cooper went on to explain the sentiment behind the album’s creation: “I didn’t intend this to be a record about any one person or anything in particular. I didn’t even intend to write a record. I kind of always write songs and it just so happened that these are the bunch of songs that we worked on and became a record at the time we started playing together. Had we started playing together a bit earlier it would have been a completely different record.”

Rearrange Beds, the full-length debut from An Horse

Rearrange Beds, the full-length debut from An Horse

Indeed, there’s something tragic and painful about this album, but its songs also possess a palpable layer of positivity, which is just one of the characteristics that make Rearrange Beds such a fascinating listen. On the cover art, a disemboweled figure’s body rests on the cross, picked bare by birds against a backdrop of softly falling snow; a testament to both the naked vulnerability of the emotions lying within, and the nature of new beginnings–resurrection even, if you want to get all religious about it.

Take the determined lyrics from the track “Camp Out” for example: “This is a song for the one that I love/I haven’t met them yet/But I’m quietly confident/Although what if like you said/All I’m looking for/It doesn’t exist/Oh I have to believe it does,” followed by the clever nod to Courtney Love and Co: “Like that good Hole album/I can live through this/I can live through worse.” Though Cooper perplexedly claimed to cringe when singing it live, this contemplative bittersweet epic, reminiscent of those great ‘90s alterna-grunge anthems, is easily one of my favorite new songs of 2009.

The choppy punk rock-inspired guitars and tight start-and-stop drumming of “Postcards” is another fan favorite, but the album’s slow burners are just as captivating as the more obvious rockers are. The honesty of “Company” will stop you in your tracks as Cooper takes a chance on love and sings it to a climax: “And all my broken hearts/and all my forgettable false starts/Well you can have them right now/but you better not look away/You can have ’em right now/but you better not look away/This me tying to be brave.”

Both in sound and sentiment, An Horse’s debut recalls artists like Mirah, Nada Surf, Rilo Kiley, PJ Harvey and Stars with that mesmerizing indie sparkle. As incredibly powerful as their music is (which is quite, especially when considering they’re only a duo), the poetry of Kate Cooper’s unapologetic lyrics clearly make Rearrange Beds all the more extraordinary. An Horse is, however, anything but a dictatorship. “I don’t really write lyrics. I kind of help arrange the songs with Kate, but she’s really the songwriter in the group,” said Cox.

“Yeah but we kind of write everything together,” Cooper added. “I bring in the skeletons but you know especially when Damon sings, you know I kind of say ‘I think something here,’ and then Damon always gets the vibe of what I’m singing about.”

Though they still experience moments of pinch-me-I’m-dreaming-disbelief at their swift success, Cooper notes that they had a good feeling about An Horse even from the start. “We were always very serious about playing music in other projects and all sorts of things, but this has kind of taken us both my surprise in a very good way because we knew when we started playing together that it was kind of special.”

An Horse will play The High Noon Saloon on Wednesday, March 4th at 8:00 pm. Madison’s Whatfor and Milwaukee’s Pezzettino will open the show. Get your tickets now!

–Shelley Peckham


Check out An Horse on their official site, Myspace and YouTube:

“Camp Out” (acoustic)


“Company” (live)



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Shows To See This Week (If you like…)

Friday May 9

If you like Matt Pond PA, Stars, or Iron & Wine try..

MARGOT AND THE NUCLEAR SO AND SO’S with special guests CAMERON McGILL + JENTRI COLELLO

Genre: Rock/ Indie/ Folk

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s is an 8-piece indie-pop/orchestral pop band from Indianapolis, Indiana. The band’s sound, categorized as “chamber pop”, has been compared to the indie rock groups Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, and The Shins.

Quiet As A Mouse- Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s

9:00 pm @ Orpheum Stage Door 608.255.8755 $10 adv $12 dos – all ages

BUY TICKETS NOW!

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Friday May 9

If you like Blitzen Trapper, Ryan Adams, or Neko Case then try

THE AVETT BROTHERS with JESSICA LEA MAYFIELD

Genre: Folk Rock

4 Free Avett Brothers Song Downloads

9:30 pm @ High Noon Saloon 608.268.1122 $15 adv /$18 dos – 18+

BUY TICKETS NOW!

Presented with Muzzle of Bees

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Saturday May 10

If you like Matt Nathanson, Nicole Atkins, or Ingrid Michaelson try..

Three of Hearts Tour featuring TODD CAREY / ALEXA WILKINSON / JONATHAN CLAY

1 Free Todd Carey Song Download

Saturday 9:30 pm @ Cafe Montmartre 608.255.5900 $8 adv $10 dos – 18+ BUY TICKETS NOW!

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Saturday May 10

If you like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or The Detroit Cobras try..

THE KILLS with special guests TELEPATHE

Genre: Rock/ Electronic/Indie

Fever- The Kills

NPR.org, April 4, 2008 Article and song of the day

Saturday 9:30 pm @ The Annex 608.256.7750 $12 – 18+

BUY TICKETS NOW!

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Monday May 12

If you like Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, or Drive-by Truckers try

JAMES MCMURTRY with THE DEDRINGERS

Genre: Rock

James on NPR’s All Things Considered

Monday 8:00 pm @ High Noon Saloon 608.268.1122 $15 adv – 21+

BUY TICKETS NOW!

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Wednesday May 14

If you like Ryan Adams, Okkervil River, or Jason Collett try

JOSH RITTER with DAWN LANDES

Genre: Rock/ Indie/ Folk Rock

“Ritter’s off-the-cuff approach intersects with a winning pop melody..the neatly arranged horns, fiddles, and piano play against Ritter’s tumbling lyrics. -Onion AV Club

To the Dogs or Whoever- Josh Ritter

3 Free Josh Ritter Song Downloads

Wednesday 8:30 pm @ High Noon Saloon 608.268.1122 $15 adv – 18+

BUY TICKETS NOW!

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Thursday May 15

KT TUNSTALL with special guest PADDY CASEY

Thursday 7:30 pm @ Barrymore Theatre 608.241.8864 $27 – all ages

SOLD OUT!

Presented with JAM Productions

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