Album Review: feeble little horse – Girl With Fish

[Saddle Creek; 2023]

Way back around the turn of the century, a forgotten 90s rock band called Weezer returned with the Green Album (well, it was actually called Weezer, but….you know…), and while the nerd rock fans rejoiced, there were quite a few complaints when purchasing the CD from FYE or Sam Goody and finding your $20 afforded a meagre 28 minutes of new music. It didn’t help that the music wasn’t all that great, because let’s face it, there are only two albums Weezer fans will stan, and neither rhymes with “Curly” or uhhh…. “Galavroid”. Green wasn’t bad though, in retrospect, it proved that power pop could be contained in under 30 minutes – the quality just had to speak more than the quantity.

Feeble Little Horse know this, that’s why they already did it once in 2021 with their debut Hayday, and now return with the perfected Girl With Fish on Saddle Creek. The Pennsylvania noise-poppers sound nothing like Weezer, thankfully, but neither album stretches beyond 27 minutes – something wax owners may balk at, but Feeble Little Horse utilize every second. 

Erroneously lumped in with the latest shoegaze revival, Feeble Little Horse implement tiny specs of the gaze, but they do share a common aesthetic with similar scenesters like the Philadelphia-based bands Sprit of the Beehive, They Are Gutting a Body of Water, and Knifeplay. Those comparisons are slim, but all of these bands operate like clockwork in their respective lanes, and with Girl With Fish, Feeble Little Horse now have a stranglehold on their brand of noisy, twee pop that has propelled them into that nebulous scene of young bands that’s tired of genre labels and is discovering fertile middle grounds. Feeble Little Horse may not be massively reinventing anything, but simply rejuvenating rock with glorious noise makes them winners here.

Individually the textures employed here would merely sound interesting, but the way Feeble Little Horse merge all of these elements into actual listenable songs is thrilling. Opener “Freak” bursts with personality and pomp as vocalist Lydia Slocum skewers her ignorant crush, even taking potshots at his current girlfriends size difference. It’s a fun rock song made all the better by these seemingly radical approaches that work so damn well together. 

Across the record, Slocum proves herself as one of indie music’s best new vocalists. She pairs angelic melodies with dizzying electric guitars, and even pulls out the occasional snarl, like on standout “Pocket” where she blasts varying degrees of “Do you wanna be in my pocket?” Slocum’s a radical lyricist too, drawing comparisons to the likes of Wednesday’s Karly Hartzman, spitting lines like “Steamroller, you fuck like you’re eating,” on the wonderfully twee “Steamroller”.

Squeezing 11 songs into 26 minutes is no easy task but somehow Feeble Little Horse manage to give each gem a personality and identity. “Tin Man” borrows the heartless hollow man from the Wizard of Oz for an analogy about emotional manipulators, sung through wincing guitar streaks that emphasise her distaste.

That wincing sound is effectively used all over the record. It’s a squealing that guitarists Sebastian Kinsler and Ryan Walchonski have perfected and it elevates Feeble Little Horse’s music at every turn. Slocum could sit out “Sweet” and it would still be a deliciously noisy track thanks to the dual axemen – and that’s a testament not just to the guitarists but also the band as a whole. 

One of Girl With Fish’s defining moments is in the finale, “Heavy Water”, where everything the band’s been showcasing up to this point – guitar twang, layered fuzz, dreamy melodies, punchy imagery, subtle production details, tension and release – coalesces into that near pop perfection. With this unique synchrony, Feeble Little Horse exit their breakthrough with simplicity and pure melody.