When I first heard “Chicago Ave” from Horse Tornado, I fell in love. It has been a strange time to be living in Minneapolis and I feel like Horse Tornado (AKA Dylan Hilliker) captured the emotion, confusion, frustration, and everything else that we have all been feeling up here lately so perfectly. I just had to hear more and, although this album has been sitting on my desk for some time, I feel like tonight is the night as this city comes to terms with another tragic event that has me putting boots to the pavement again. I’m hoping that Horse Tornado’s ‘The Great Pause’ album can give me just that, a great pause amidst all of the pain and craziness that this city is apparently plagued by.
This album opens with “Wailing” which instantly just made me release all of the stress and tension I had been holding onto throughout the weekend. I found myself sitting back in my chair and just taking deep breaths as this opening track took over my body, mind, and soul. Waves of almost ambient peace just kept crashing into my heart and it had me so ready to experience the rest of this nine-song album.
Although just as soft and sweet as the opening track, “Make the Bend” is exactly what I was expecting from Horse Tornado. It’s sensitive with vocals that go straight to your heart. The vocals are flawless, don’t get me wrong, but there’s also something just so real and honest about them. Talk about heart on your sleeve, I was completely captivated by this track and, before I knew it, it had been replaced by “All Wrong”. As “All Wrong” took over my house, I realized just how hard it was going to be to write about this album. Each song is so soft, so delicate and my words feel clumsy and boisterous in comparison. So take this as my apology, there are going to be multiple times throughout this nine-song album where I found myself just lost for words and there’s honestly nothing I can do about it. This is clearly one of those albums that you will just have to hear for yourself.
“To Find the Line” is, you guessed it, another soft and sweet track that instantly had me feeling all the feels. What I love about Horse Tornado’s sound the most is the way he is able to mix this emotion with fairly upbeat drums and beats that are infectious but it doesn’t distract you from the lyrical genius that is a huge selling point of Horse Tornado. There are waves and falls throughout all of these tracks but I feel like the ones in “To Find the Line” really hit just right and at the perfect time.
The mood shifts to something a little bit more bitter and desperate for “Urgency” and, although I loved the gorgeousness of the first few tracks, I think I liked the subtle aggression of this one a bit more. I can not stress how amazing the words are throughout this album and I feel like “Urgency” really showcases that. Even though some lines are simple like “Took the dog out and smoked some weed”, there’s so much more to those words and that comes with the delivery of them. Seriously, just listen, my words are gibberish compared to Dylan’s perfect word choice.
I’ll be honest, I kind of sped through “The One Who Forgets” just because I knew that “Chicago Ave” was up next and that song hits me so hard especially right now but “The One Who Forgets” did not go down without a fight. It felt like a bit of a redemption song as far as the lyrics go compared to those in “Urgency”. I loved how the two fit together but I just couldn’t wait and had to skip ahead to “Chicago Ave”.
It’s not the words that really get me with this track, it’s the emotion. Honestly, I don’t get the relationship between all of the words of this track and the events that took place on Chicago Ave just over a year ago but there’s a resilience in this track that absolutely resonates with me. This resilience feels especially prominent during the line “And it starts with me”. As someone who spent more time out with my boots to the pavement than at my own house for weeks on end, this line and the overall vibe of this track just hits so beautifully hard. You can feel the pain that this city, state, country, and the world went through but you also get this power of the people who refuse to let hate win this one. Seriously, listen to it. Regardless of your stance on everything that has gone done over the past year and some change, just listen to this track and let the beauty take over, and apply it to whatever situation you want.
I’ll be honest, I felt exhausted after listening to “Chicago Ave” just due to the emotion that comes with that track but no need to fear, “The Great Pause” came in like that giant bear hug that you need after a good cry. This track, although lighter feeling, is still full of emotion and tenderness but I feel like, at this point, that’s a given. People have signature sounds and vibes and it’s clear that Horse Tornado’s distinct vibe is that of tenderness and beauty. Again, even with that tenderness, there’s something energizing about the beats that are used throughout this album. It has it feeling more indie-pop instrumentally but more acoustic singer-songwriter vocally. It’s a perfect balance and a beautiful mix.
Sadly, all good and beautiful things must come to an end, and ‘The Great Pause’ ends with “C U Free”. Much like the title would suggest, there’s something freeing about this ending track. This whole album acts as an almost meditation with this track being the one that gently releases you back into the wild world that we all live in. If there was a song to listen to every day before leaving your house and going to tackle another day, this would be it and I plan on setting all of my speakers to play this track every day for me as I walk out of the house and into the world.
My Favorite Track(s): “Urgency”; “Chicago Ave.
For Fans Of: Emotion; Tenderness; Beauty; Meditating
Daydream-ability: 9 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Artie slept on the floor behind me; Autumn slept on the back of the couch
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 7 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 9 out of 10
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