PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Pale Horse and Rider: These Are the New Good Times

Nikki Tranter

Pale Horse and Rider

These Are the New Good Times

Label: Darla
US Release Date: 2003-02-11
UK Release Date: 2003-04-07
Amazon
iTunes

Pale Horse and Rider's These Are the New Good Times was recorded at the famed Sacred Heart Recording Studio in Duluth, Minnesota. Currently used as a community center, the building, a hundred-year-old decommissioned church with some of the spookiest architecture this side of the Bates Motel, has become renowned for its unique acoustics, including a four-second natural reverb, giving music recorded within its walls a layered, breathy quality. And, though it may be crammed full of instruments and recording devices, the church retains its stained glass windows, carved marble altar, pews, and balconies, making for an ethereal and beautiful scene to create in.

Pale Horse and Rider's Jon DeRosa, responsible for writing the majority of the tracks on this, the band's first full-length release, not only creates beneath the church's towering ceilings, he seems to bring to life the spirits of its preachers long dead with a stark, yet scintillating vocal. He commands attention on his songs, each teeming with the kind of charred chagrin that only comes with self-awareness, worldliness, and the familiarity of repeated heartbreak.

Similarly to Chris Isaak and Randy Travis, DeRosa's captivating vocal and attention to even the smallest detail in his writing make it hard not to fall into a trance when he's singing. It's hypnotic, calming, and soothing. DeRosa takes his time, keeping it slow and simple as his holy surrounds dictate mood, rarely rising above serious and gloomy.

DeRosa's expert use of pacing and rhyme is evident on many of this album's tracks, especially "Coney Island", on which the singer takes the decidedly simple theme of one lover's need and twirls his uncomplicated words around it to create a charming love song -- "Darling skip out on your convention / I'm thinking my heart has got an infection / The only known cure is your affection / So whisper to me 'neath the sun's reflection" -- that never feels forced or overwritten.

DeRosa again experiments with rhyme on "Stars", only this time he removes himself from the kind of basic couplets used on "Coney Island", delving into more serious territory. There's a loneliness to the track, a desire to break out, to see a declining world through different eyes. DeRosa's personal revelations -- "Like a sick little kitten that can't keep itself clean / Hiding in corridors since age 13 / Put such meticulous effort into not being seen" -- speak volumes about his style, how comfortable he is with silences, with the staid grace of his performance. The song feels like a doorway into an Escher painting -- surreal, contagious, dreamlike, and difficult to escape from.

DeRosa's finest moment on the album, though, comes on "The Prettiest Girl I've Seen Tonight (So Far)". "Walked in the bar / Looked 'round for a place to stand / That's when I saw you / Two rum and cokes in your hands", he sings, in what is essentially a one night interlude with a woman that is so defining, so complete, that by the final chorus you'd think the new-found friends had known each other forever. Original, personal, and genuinely affecting, the song, strategically placed at the end of the CD for obvious "Holy shit, this album is amazing!" impact, shifts DeRosa into a category all his own when it comes to conveying truth in the moment.

With a great match of musicians to back him -- Marc Gartman, Low's Alan Sparhawk (who also produced), Flare's Charles Newman and the Rivulets' Nathan Amundson -- DeRosa has created an album as uplifting as it is dangerously depressing. These Are the New Good Times is a masterwork of timing and precision, so carefully detailed, so utterly therapeutic, leaving the listener spellbound and aching (praying?) for more.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.