There’s something haunting about the indie folk music on Riverhorse’s debut album, Who Gets The Last Laugh On Doomsday?. Whether the ghostly quality comes from gorgeously bittersweet melodies or frontman Brian Motyll’s husky vocals, the album makes Motyll’s heartbreak sound as if it has become universal.
Who Gets The Last Laugh uses a variety of sounds to complete its layered, intricate blend of indie folk music, and there is a clean balance of banjo, guitar, and piano throughout the album. Beautiful melodies stick out in the piano on “Memories” and guitar on “Cheap Wine”, for example, and each track meanders along like there’s no rush to get through the album. Everything is just a little bit faded as if Motyll’s traumas have exhausted the band, highlighting the sharp edges and cracks in his gravelly vocals.
Aside from “And So It Goes..”, a 90-second spooky banjo instrumental with accompanying nighttime sounds, most of Riverhorse’s songs are longer than typical tracks; the longest, “NuNu”, clocks in at almost eight minutes. Motyll spends less time singing on these tracks than one would expect, leaving time for long, reflective instrumentals.
When they are present, however, Motyll’s intense lyrics complement his husky, rusted-tin vocals. The album’s title track is a love song tinged with sadness, for example, and he croons about endings and lasting lovers (“What a beautiful day to say goodbye/The day we escape from this town/I’m lucky to spend it with you/and smile as the sky will fall down“).
Later, Motyll sings about mental illness and demons on “Visitors” (“I’ve been feeling down beyond compare/Holding on, I’m hoping you’re still there/All these fucking visitors incoherently aware/It’s not my fault”), ending the track with an overwhelming burst of a staticky, muted instrumental after the lyric, “I just wanna medicate my head”.
Between Riverhorse’s beautiful melodies and anguished lyrics, it’s impossible not to feel something pulling at your heartstrings by the end of the album. The three-piece brings to life vibrant stories of leaving and being haunted through softly echoing folk music and a gravelly vocalist, and the band is sure to carve out a place for itself in the music scene with such an impressive debut.