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Emotional powerhouses SPENCER RADCLIFFE and R.L. KELLY have come together to release BROWN HORSE, a true dream of a split record in every sense. This is out through the independent Brooklyn-based record label ORCHID TAPES, who also released R.L. Kelly’s LIFE’S A BUMMER EP last year (though Radcliffe, making music as BLITHE FIELD since 2008, has been bouncing between smaller labels and self-releasing). This record is an even split, each showing their individual strengths but producing a cohesive, emotional, home-grown sound album overall.

Radcliffe has the record’s A-side, and immediately throws you in to his weird dreamy world with lots of jangled layers that twist his songs from slow, finger-picking melodies to heavily tonal mashes of droning organs and rhythmic glockenspiel. He has such an earnest voice that, though it can get a little lost in the shuffle, strikes an emotional chord when he slightly self-consciously sings out lyrics like “I got a new tattoo I wanted to show you, but why would you care.” His half is piecey, with lots of stops and starts jaggedly assembled in a child-like way, though full of heart. He is raw, ripping through the minute-long “LA” and ending the electronically-tinged “Dorsal Collapse” with an explosion of ambient ringing and distorted, rambling voices. The title track also features, and acts as a segue into, R.L. Kelly with clear chords that build into an orchestral scream.

Kelly’s half is more stripped down, but in no way any less complex. She has the makings of a true indie songstress, with melodic finger-picking always in the background and an interesting, almost twee voice that brings to mind early Rilo Kiley. She is also earnest and honest and pretty emotional, but her half is tinged with hope. Even while singing “I don’t think you think that this will ever work out, ’cause where are you now? You’re not here and that says everything, you and I are nothing more than how things used to be,” from her opening track “I Don’t Like Remembering Anymore,” you’re left feeling uplifted, as if consoled so kindly by a friend. She has a way of writing lyrics that seem counterintuitive to her sweet, sad sound – like the track “Wake Up” where she advises that “It doesn’t matter what they say because they are fucking dumb” – but it works so well. She ventures into Radcliffe’s territory a bit with her instrumental track “Teen Porn,” a collage of noisey static and repetitive droning, but closes out with “The Great Big World” which feels intimate and encompassing all at once.

And that’s really the lingering feeling this album instills, a warming intimacy combined with a greater view of the world, like when you find out a stranger also does that weird little habit you thought was so unique. Listening to R.L. Kelly is like daydreaming in the sun, whereas Spencer Radcliffe winds you through strange dreams you can’t control, but don’t want to wake up from. There’s a lot of sadness and hurt, and layers and melodies, but also a lot of empowerment, and definitely a lot of talent.

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