Emma Ruth Rundle released a cataclysm of emotions in her latest personal album, On Dark Horses. The comforting but starkly exposed lyricism sung with beautiful and slurred vocals in every song is a treat. Following her words while riding the prominent sweet dark melodies and explosive guitars leaves you immobilized till the end.
Giving us this well needed gothic folk-rock essence that is just in time for the rainy autumn season, Rundle is pretty much killing it. Despite the rarely increasing tempo throughout the album, there is a calming quality about the beat as it settles you into the mind of Rundle till the very last song.
“Fever Dreams” starts off the album and doesn’t wait for you to tune in. Different from how Rundle usually makes her songs, easing the listener into the soundscape. “Fever Dreams” is very anxiety ridden, with propulsive rock instrumentation leading us through the thoughts that plague Rundle. “The song itself is about being lost in perpetual confusion. Imprisoned in one’s own foggy mind where past and present blur in the languid haze that is my consciousness. Where the details of experience are eclipsed by the anxiety that seems to have endless rule.” (Posted by Rundle on Twitter).
“Light Song” is one of the more lyrically tenderhearted songs but don’t expect a different sound. Lyrics like “hoping he is waiting to dress me all in white…we outshine the sun, we outrise the moon” are endearing to hear amidst all the brooding lyrics. The backing vocals are sung by her partner Evan Patterson, singing in a baritone supporting Rundle in this enthralling dark romantic song.
Alongside Rundle’s personal thoughts there are narrative like stories told in some songs like “Darkhorse” and “Races”.
“Darkhorse” tells a captivating tale of two sisters. The older sister sheds wisdom upon the younger one, “no more laying down, and no more dragging out. It’s the dark horse you give legs to, no one else can ride”. Everything done in this song gives it its gripping essence, the satisfying chorus, layers of ambient guitars building, and pumped drums and vocals makes for a pretty dominant song on the album.
You’ll find the rhythm and Rundles voice especially infectious and numbing on Dead Set Eyes. With the chorus line “What doesn’t kill you just keeps you alive” there is both cynicism and determination to be heard. “With a mouth full of xans and a handful of time” Xanax, a well-known anti-anxiety drug, is referenced in the song. Living with anxiety and overcoming it is a recurring theme in On Dark Horses and a part of Rundle’s life. Rundle herself explained it best in her press release for the project: “The record is about overcoming—understanding and embracing the crippling situation and then growing beyond it… The dark horse works for me in a visual way, as a representation of a contained force that will win the race or exceed the expectation of society and self.”