It might be considered rash to place an album that you have been listening to for less than two weeks in your top ten list of best albums of the year, but I don’t think choosing Desperate Living as my number nine album is a decision I’ll regret. HORSE the Band is certainly not a mainstream band (their chiptune beats and hardcore tendencies mixed with Nathan Winneke’s bizarre lyrics is not a combination that everyone can get into), but this is great music with a huge sense of originality.
The first track I heard from Desperate Living was Shapeshift. What starts out as a moody and ethereal track soon crashes into blast beats and screams, which soon transforms into this sort of alt-rock breakdown, which is then interrupted by what can only be described as the soundtrack to a Game Boy game from 1993. It only gets weirder from here, and this is only one track! Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart makes an angelic contribution to the song’s outro, which is somewhat unusual for a HORSE track.
The album is filled with pitch-shifted tones that remind you of the warped soundtracks from bad VHS transfers and some of the most intricate guitar and drum work out there. If that’s not a mind-bender, I don’t know what is. Here’s the thing: it all sounds amazing. Every single track keeps you on your toes and gets you to alter all of your expectations. I must have listened to this album more than ten times already, and I hear something new every time.
Desperate Living is certainly a step forward for HORSE the Band in terms of sound and songwriting, but there is still that familiar “Nintendo-core” vibe and wacky humor that longtime fans have come to expect. Take the end of of the title track for instance: The words “I’m a plumber, but what I plumb is the fruit of infinity. I’m deeper than infinity, so infinite, I look infinity look like a four” are spoken with no explanation whatsoever. And there’s that bit about dinosaurs in the aforementioned Shapeshift. And the nearly-comical synth breakdowns on The Failure of All Things. And they fact that they named a song after themselves. And the album’s cover artwork.