Indie rock borne out of the great potato state of Idaho, Apple Horse were once an up and coming powerhouse before fizzling just below Earth’s atmosphere. Their only record, Tuck Me In, Woodsman, was more or less a shooting star as multiple tracks appeared on MTV shows like Teen Wolf and World of Jenks. The record, which came out in 2010, is a mix of Cold War Kids and Band of Horses—offering danceable, indie rock jams that are catchy and somewhat memorable.
Beginning with falsetto harmonies and marching drums, “Filthy Halls” is a sort of battle cry, youth rally tune that pits the band against some oppressive force. The chorus embodies this rebellious spirit with the line, “We’ve tasted freedom now, we’re never coming back to your filthy halls.” Like a lot of the first half of the record, the track is energetic and plays with religious language. Similar ideas drift into the second track, “Devil’s Land,” which is more of a choppy, Wolfmother-ish song. The religious references (besides the title) can really be seen in the verse,
“Giving into comfort like we found ourselves at home,/we stormed the earth by day and by night we’d lit on fire/all the bottoms of our shoes with crooning, gnashing, from the depths/and now we’re innocent enough to love the guilty ones and all those sinners.”
What’s nice about this track, unlike its predecessor, is that it’s a bit more unpredictable in terms of song structure. (Which doesn’t mean that “Filthy Halls” is by any means a boring track, but no one wants a record full of predictable pop songs. That’s what Miley Cyrus is for.)
Appearing more and more as a subtle religious record, “Summon God” hints at struggles with faith, “No I don’t know why I don’t know preacher, it’s been a rough while since I gave up loving days.” This track returns to the standard ‘verse-chorus’ structure with brief intermissions of jamming guitars and a quiet interlude before launching back into the final chorus. By now the anthem quality of Apple Horses’ sound wears on you as a listener, as you’ve heard the big choruses enough to know what these guys have in terms of ‘stadium power’ and are ready to hear something different. For how strong the first half of the record is, though, the latter half doesn’t even come close to delivering. What follows are ‘wanna-be’ Good Old War tunes that drag and, after a while, become incessant and bland.
“Vacation” is just a quick pop tune celebrating typical road trips with lyrics that only amount to quickly spoken, ‘cute’ babble. “Frames” doesn’t offer any aid, as it’s painfully the longest song on the record. It’s a standard break-up tune with classic “ba-dop-bop-ba’s” that become annoying to listen to about a minute and a half into the song. And “Grandfather Clocks” is just a crappy, Good Old War b-side—nothing else to say about it besides that.
I will say that the final track does salvage this record for me. “Baby Love” is another love song, but it’s the most personal song out of the seven. Clocking in at only a minute forty-five, “Baby Love” seems like something that would appear on a mixtape for a girlfriend lost or trying to be gained. The singer croons that time is all that he and his lover have, and that he’s trying to get her stay while she seemingly wants to leave. I could see this song being sung to the girl it was written for in an intimate setting, as a present or a confessional offering to reveal one’s true feelings, for it doesn’t attempt to shield its heart with guitar layering or instrumental breakdowns. Oddly enough, over the years, this is the song I find myself going back to on the record (even more so than the three openers that MTV was really fond of).
Tuck Me In, Woodsman worked well as an introduction to a band that I thought would produce more substantial work later once a label picked them up (I mean, they were getting a lot of airplay on MTV dramas, so I figured it was inevitable). What’s disappointing about this record, though, is that it grows old really quick after one or two listens. I blame this on the fact that the majority of the songs just don’t cut that deep. The first three tracks are catchy as all hell, they were perfect candidates for being placed on ‘hip’ teen television dramas, but the lyricism is often obscure—aiming to be clever more so than be relatable. I get the teen youth rebellion, I do, but none of these songs come close to something like “Smells Like Teen Spirit”—and that’s mainly due to the fact that these songs just aren’t that unique. Comparisons to other bands are far too easy to make with these guys—so it wasn’t that big of loss, I think for most listeners, when they stopped playing shows and putting out new music. But the record is nice to listen to about once a year or so to jam out in the car or something of the like. But if you’re looking for indie rock that will emotionally ‘move’ you, I would go for something more like Death Cab For Cutie—or just blasting “The Funeral” by Band of Horses on repeat.