Review: The Horde and the Harem deliver a harmless indie folk package with the Fairweather Friends EP.

avatars-000062223489-pn0z88-t500x500Part of me has to wonder why indie folk rock isn’t as popular in the mainstream as its indie music peers, since it’s arguably the most consistently strong subgenre of indie rock out there. Sure, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of some of the genre’s hardest-hitters, The Decemberists, Bright Eyes, Sufjan Stevens, Neutral Milk Hotel, etc., but when was the last time you heard them on even the alternative stations alongside Chvrches, Broken Bells and the like?

The subgenre has seen the occasional breakthrough into Top 40 radio stations with Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters and Men and The Lumineers, but that’s about it. Will indie folk ever be able to rise through the ranks and dominate the mainstream, in the same way that indie pop has in recent memory? …Probably not.

…Well anyways, The Horde and the Harem (not to be confused with The Head and the Heart) is a seven-piece folk rock band from the Emerald City that was formed in 2009. To date, the group has had two official releases, their debut Gold Rush EP and their only full-length, A Long Midwinter. The group is set to release a second EP, the Fairweather Friends EP, on April 12th.

From a musical standpoint, The Horde and the Harem employ a conventional indie folk sound, with their biggest draw being their use of two vocalists, one male and one female, similar to Lacuna Coil and the aforesaid Of Monsters and Men. Vocalists Ryan Barber and Hanna Stevens play off of each other rather well; their dynamic is certainly the most enticing part of the group’s sound.

The EP presents six tracks, and each has its own special deviant. While the intro track “Robbery” sounds like an early Circa Survive song, I get a very John Darnielle-esque feeling from the next track “Shiver”. These differences in song structure help to give the EP a nice variety to keep the listeners enticed while listening through front to back.

The Fairweather Friends EP is a good example of what I like to call an exemplifying piece. By that, I mean it’s a good example of the genre it belongs to, not really doing anything to change up the standard folk rock formula. It doesn’t have the theatrics and old-timey-ness of The Decemberists, nor does it have the light-hearted and comedic value of Flight of the Conchords or the impossible-to-classify je ne sais quoi nature of Beck. If somebody asked me what folk rock sounds like in its most basic form, I’d probably show them a song or two off of this EP.

That doesn’t make the overall package bad, just a tad underwhelming, and it isn’t really the kind of album whose contents won’t escape your head for days after listening to it. However, as an album that you’ll probably only listen to once and never think about again, the Fairweather Friends EP is well-made and is entertaining for its entire 29-minute duration. Your mileage may vary.

The Fairweather Friends EP is set to release on the 12th of April, and I’d recommend you check it out if you’re looking for a competent, albeit innocuous indie folk release to add to your collection. The EP will be available via the group’s Bandcamp page when it releases. “Robbery”, the first track and first single from the EP, is available for streaming on the same page and you best listen to that to get an idea of whether or not you’ll like the full package. To follow the band, you can like their page on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @THatHMusic.

Until next time, don’t forget to be awesome.

About Jess Casebeer

The only music critic in the Pacific Northwest, Jess Casebeer is the youngest member of the NorthWest Music Scene crew at age 16. Open to most genres out there, he greatly values reviews that are informative, critical and entertaining. He's kind of like an innerspring mattress: firm, yet comfortable in its own right. Follow him on Twitter @JessCasebeer.